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Kings Cross … will the public ever be asked?

April 19, 2010

The current scene - chaos and clutter in front of Kings Cross

Network Rail and Camden Council have just announced the winners of a competition to appoint architects to design the new “square” in front of Kings Cross station.

As part of the Kings Cross station redevelopment, Network Rail will demolish all the buildings which currently make-up the current waiting area, shops and ticket offices. A new concourse is being constructed on the west side of the station.

In 2013, a new square will be created on the area immediately south of the historic station structure. This square (actually more of a triangular shaped area) is to become a 7,000 square metre public space. The latest PR declares this to be “larger than Leicester Square”.

But, every step of the redevelopment of Kings Cross station has been undertaken without any significant public involvement and has excluded Islington Council. Efforts to pursaude Camden Council – which is the planning authority responsible – have been rebuffed repeatedly.

The new Kings Cross square (artist's impression) with an improbably small number of people walking around

In the latest announcement, Camden Council’s spokeswomen talks about a “better public realm along Euston Road at the heart of the borough of Camden”. The Kings Cross square is not at the heart of Camden at all. It’s on the Borough’s very eastern edge and is a piece of geography that is shared with Islington. Camden’s boundary with Islington actually runs along one side of this new square.

This is another example of regeneration being done “to” people and not “with” them. The latest design competition has not involved local people at any stage and despite what Network Rail’s press statement says, there is no evidence that Islington Council has been involved. It may eventually transpire that some Islington official has attended a meeting or two. But big decisions are being taken without proper concern for the people who live in the area or their elected representatives.

Cllr Paul Convery says “the whole philosophy guiding this crucial redevelopment lies in a cosy arrangement between Camden Council and Network Rail. I am particularly critical of Camden which seems doctrinally blinded to the fact that thousands of people and their active community organisations already live in Kings Cross.”

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