Greens reject new Kings Cross plans

9 February 2006

Camden Greens have submitted their comments to Council planning chiefs in response to developer Argent’s new plans for Kings Cross Railwaylands, and have again rejected the proposals for failing to provide the kind of development needed by Camden residents.

Adrian Oliver, Chair of Camden Green Party and candidate for Holborn and St Pancras in this year’s General Election, said, “These new plans still fall short of any reasonable definition of sustainable development. The area South of Regents Canal is even less mixed-use than before, housing has been reduced and it is now almost all office space.

“The purpose of a mixed-use development is to provide jobs close to peoples’ homes, reducing the need to travel by any means other than on foot or by bicycle. The proposed plans not only fail to reduce travel, they intend to increase it by attracting large numbers of commuters from Kent and not providing new opportunities for existing residents.”

The Greens also criticised the addition of a number of ‘showcase’ renewable energy projects as completely inadequate. Adrian said, “Despite the new wind turbines and solar schemes, there is a lack of vision within the plans for energy provision. These technologies are proven and do not need to be showcased by any more ‘pilot’ schemes.

“The Kings Cross development represents a unique opportunity for a large-scale zero-energy development in the UK and could become a flagship for the whole of the Europe. We are demanding that a target of at least 50% local, renewable energy generation should be adopted by the developers, and a 100% target is not unreasonable.

“We have also called for Allan Jones MBE, head of the new London Climate Change Agency to be called in to review energy use on the site and make his own suggestions. In Woking, he managed to make the whole town centre self-sufficient in electricity. With a blank slate to work on in Kings Cross, the same should be possible and his kind of leadership is necessary to make sure this happens.”

Greens’ key demands not addressed

In June 2005, Camden Green Party published its ten key demands that had to be addressed by the new plans:

1. More housing, less office space

NOT ADDRESSED: Some student flats have been added to the plans, but the balance of housing vs office development is no better than in the previous proposals. South of Regent’s canal the area is even less mixed than before.

2. More space for local employment

NOT ADDRESSED: Affordable business units and retail premises are not included in the new plans and there are no plans for light industrial uses at all.

3. More community and children’s facilities

PARTLY ADDRESSED: There are improved play spaces, some community sports facilities and better-designed areas for community meetings in the new plans. However, the overall space allowed for community use has reduced and there are deficits in cultural provision.

4. 50% of housing to be affordable homes for families.

NOT ADDRESSED: Affordable homes still only make up 40% of the housing. No indication that these homes will be properly integrated with market-price private homes is given in the new plans.

5. At least 75% car-free housing

NOT ADDRESSED: None of the housing is designated as properly car free. Overall the development allows 1 car space for every 2 residences, which is far more than is needed in this area, with its excellent transport links.

6. Flagship ecological buildings and green energy schemes

PARTLY ADDRESSED: Some renewable energy schemes have been included, including ‘up to’ 14 wind turbines, a ‘showcase’ CHP plant and solar PV generation on some roofs, although the plans are vague about how and where these schemes will be instituted. Building in infrastructure for potential heat pumps is also welcome. However, there is scope for much more utilization of renewable energy on the site, and the plans show a lack of vision of how the area could become a truly flagship zero-energy development.

7. More green space for wildlife and exercise

PARTLY ADDRESSED: New parks have been introduced, and the landscaping proposals show better use of trees and native plants. However, the new ‘Cubitt Park’ is still too small for proper games and the target of 15% green and brown roofs is too low and fails to take full advantage of the benefits of these for wildlife, home insulation and water management.

8. Lower height and density to fit in with the surrounding area

NOT ADDRESSED: The height and density remain the same. In particular the high buildings along the south of the canal will cause severe overshadowing of the canal and Camley Street park.

9. Use the canal for transport and servicing

PARTLY ADDRESSED: The limited new docking facilities along the canal are welcome. However, we reiterate our previous call for the canal to be used for transport of demolition waste and construction materials during the building phase, and for waste and recycling transport once the development is completed.

10. Re-use materials from demolition in new buildings

PARTLY ADDRESSED: The re-use of some materials from demolished buildings has been indicated in the new landscaping proposals, but a commitment should be made that all non-toxic demolition materials should be re-used on site. It is preferable that whole bricks (for example) are re-used rather than these materials being crushed to be used simply for aggregate in the new development.

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