King's Cross is off the rails

1 March 2007

For the past three years, Camden Green Party has been campaigning alongside the King’s Cross Railway Lands Group for the redevelopment of King’s Cross to make a significant contribution towards Camden’s shortage of social housing; to provide jobs for local people; to preserve the heritage of King's Cross and to ensure that any redevelopment is done in an environmentally friendly fashion. Unfortunately, Argent (the developer’s) proposals fall well short of the aspirations of the local community. A mere 5% of the floorspace developed will be for social rented housing; just 10% of the development to be powered by renewable energy.

The proposals will see a large scale office development dominating King’s Cross and missing an opportunity to revitalise the area for the benefit of those who live there. In November the Tory and Lib Dem-dominated development control committee approved the scheme.

Camden Green Party’s Alex Goodman, a barrrister specialising in planning law has been acting for the Kings Cross Railway Lands Group for the past year and is now taking a legal challenge to the High Court on the grounds that the Committee did not make a proper democratic decision in granting consent and that it did not properly consider the lack of provision for affordable housing.

The case, which will be heard this month, raises serious concerns about the advice given by Camden’s planning officers and legal advisers (whose fees have been paid by the developer). Mr Goodman said: “It has a strong chance of succeeding and will hopefully engender a change in the culture at the Town Hall. There is hope yet that the regeneration of Kings Cross will respect the needs of those in Camden and I slington who most need it.”

Meanwhile the leader of the Greens on Camden Council, Highgate Councillor Adrian Oliver has called in for scrutiny the council’s decision to sell a listed building that it owns in King’s Cross and which the developers want to demolish.

He won support from Lib Dem, Tory and Labour councils on the scrutiny committee, who jointly asked the LibDemTory executive to take a second opinion on the valuation of the Stanley Building, which has been sold to the developer Argent for a figure of about three million pounds.

Evidence from other surveyors suggested this figure was a significant under-valuation, and Cllr Oliver’s move to have the committe call for the Executive to take a second opinion won widespread support. He said: “It is extremely disappointing that the Executive had declined to accept the consensus of the councillors that had the job of checking its work.

Cllr Oliver said that the public’s trust in the council could be damaged by the decision to ignore the committee’s backing for his stance.

Unlike the practice in most property sales, the council did not put the building - considered to be architecturally important early workers’ housing - on the open market. Argent is now stripping out the inside of the building and removal asbestos, but has agreed not to demolish the building until after the decision of the High Court on the overall development.

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