‘Big and ugly’ development proposed at Belgrove House. Despite intending to develop this site for at least seven years, developers have conveniently begun the application process in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
A diabolical development is being proposed opposite King’s Cross St Pancras, and London needs your help to make sure that it never becomes a reality.
The building will sit upon the site of the old Access storage centre, and will back onto Argyle Square in one of the country’s oldest conservation areas.
Despite being situated in one of the most highly sensitive historic settings in London, the development is one of the ugliest and most inappropriate buildings proposed in recent times, rivalling the Town Hall Annexe itself for the title of ugliest building in Camden.
The BCAAC, Camden’s Central London heritage advisory, were consulted with during the site allocation consultation and the initial preconsultation for this development. Despite attempting to impress upon the developer the importance of this highly sensitive historic site and the need for a radically different approach, the developer believes that this building is an ‘exemplar building in terms of architectural and environmental design.’
Contrary to such assertions, the building has been described by a local resident as simply ‘too big and too ugly‘.
Camden’s own policy for the site implied that any development should seek to fit in with the predominantly three to six storeys of the surrounding buildings. However the developer has sought to ‘respond’ to the height of the Grade I listed stations opposite and the Town Hall Annexe to the west, contravening this policy. The developer has confirmed that the building is of a similar height to the Town Hall Annexe along with its rooftop extension, at ten storeys.
Camden have not yet commented on this contravention of their policy.
The proposed height would make the building taller than King’s Cross station.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this development is that the application process is being pushed through in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet the developers have conveniently begun the application process while everyone’s backs are turned.
Rather than hold public events where the community and groups could attend to voice their concerns about the development, the developers have used social distancing as an excuse to hold ‘virtual community events’ shared only to a select few residents and groups, protected by password. Those which we have contacted have indicated they will not be attending these events, making them the apotheosis of ‘token consultation’.
It was also implied by a Camden source that the developers resisted revealing their proposals until the last minute.
The redevelopment is proposed as a ‘knowledge quarter life sciences laboratory‘ which will bring ‘significant public benefit’.
The Knowledge Quarter is a recent invention from Camden which seeks to promote scientific buildings within Camden’s ‘growing knowledge economy’, which supposedly stretches from Covent Garden in the south to Camden Town in the north. This area is predominantly residential, with some scientific uses clustered around UCL.
The rear of the building may also provide affordable housing facing onto Argyle Square.
Argyle Square comprises entirely Grade II listed Georgian terraces and a designated open space. The area forms part of the original designation of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area of 1968, less than a year after conservation areas were ‘invented’ in 1967. This makes it one of the oldest conservation areas in the country, a reflection of its significance.
However the development has been judged by the Bloomsbury Conservation Areas Advisory Committee (BCAAC) to ‘fail every test which is usually applied to any building in a conservation area’.
Without significant opposition to this development from the local community it is likely that Camden will approve this development. It is possible that this building may grow to even greater heights.
The approval of a large development carries with it substantial payments in the form of Section 106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy funds. Section 106 and CIL act in a similar manner to ‘taxes’ on the size of a building. This is one of the driving forces behind overdevelopment in Camden, and is a vital source of funding for Camden’s infamous public realm projects such as new cycle lanes and the £35M West End Project.
Camden have successfully raised around £60M in such funds over the past ten years in the Bloomsbury area alone. It is estimated that this building would bring with it a payment of around £1M, helping to fund Camden’s newly proposed widespread ’emergency’ cycle lanes throughout the borough, some of which are on Euston Road.
Help us defeat this development
We need your help to oppose this development. You can help us by sending an email to the planning officer and developer dealing with the case voicing your opposition:
We have precomposed an email for you to send if you do not have the time to compose one yourself:
I am writing to express my disapproval of the proposed redevelopment of Belgrove House. This area is one of the most architecturally significant places in London, and deserves better. The proposed building is one of the ugliest buildings proposed in recent times and runs entirely counter to the high quality architecture of the Grade I listed stations opposite and Argyle Square to the rear.
The fact that this building competes for height with King’s Cross and St Pancras is entirely inappropriate. It should remain entirely subservient to the stations to the north with which it cannot hope to compete in architectural quality, and seek to harmonise with the scale of the immediately surrounding buildings.
The construction of this building would leave a blemish upon one of the most important places in London, and hence the country. Far contrary to the privileges bestowed to us by the presence of the Victorian stations to the north and Georgian terraces to the south, this building would serve as an exemplar of the poorest and ugliest form of architecture of the current day. In contrast to the deep appreciation of the surrounding buildings held by all who set eyes upon them, future generations would be ashamed to set eyes upon such an ugly monstrosity at all, just as current generations are ashamed to set eyes upon the Town Hall Annexe to the west.
Development upon this site must seek to add something genuinely valuable and important to the history of London and the streetscape in this area. It must not become yet another blot upon the landscape, yet another ugly monstrosity which will be valued by none and promptly demolished once its novelty has expired. Where is your pride? Do you not wish to build something valuable, rather than something despised?
Please, have some responsibility when contributing to the history of London, a city founded two thousand years ago and which will no doubt be here many thousands of years hence. Please, grasp this opportunity to build something which is looked upon with appreciation, pleasure, and even pride both now and in the future, rather than despised for its ugliness and selfishness. This is how you should contribute to the history of London, with the sense of responsibility and pride that our ancestors had and which is strongly attested by the quality of the surrounding architecture.
Contribute something to this important place, rather than diminish its significance.
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