BCAAC takes on Belgrove House

The BCAAC are joining forces with local, regional, and national groups to defeat the development at Belgrove House.

Their demand is simple: reduce the height of the development to the recommended three to six storeys.

The predominant scale of development to the south of Euston Road is three to six storeys, and Camden’s planning brief for Belgrove House also implied that development should be of three to six storeys tall.

A summary letter of opposition to the developers was brushed aside, while Camden have reassured the BCAAC that heritage concerns will be ‘front and centre’ during the application process.

Camden have not yet revealed their stance on the proposals, claiming that they have not yet formulated their view. However detailed advice would have been given during the pre-application advice stage, and so we have requested this information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The BCAAC have published an article on their new and improved website offering a detailed assessment of the historic character of the area and why the proposals in their current form can only cause harm to it. The article also assesses the so-called ‘public benefits’ of the proposal, which the developer is trying hard to play up.

Under the NPPF, a development which causes harm to the historic environment must bring with it public benefits which are judged to outweigh that harm.

Much of the work of the PR of a new development is in playing up these public benefits and playing down the harm to heritage to try and get the application across the line.

It is clear that the developer of Belgrove House has adopted a strategy of pretending the heritage of the area is entirely irrelevant, while simultaneously bamboozling the public and Camden’s planners with endless lists of absurd acronyms and technospeak which are supposed to describe the public benefits of the proposal, which are apparently infinite in extent. These public benefits are accompanied by a collection of some of the most absurd graphics which are designed to even further emphasise the enormity of the public benefit being brought to the area.

The development successfully crushes most of King’s Cross with perfect spheres of refined public benefit

One section of the website even described the building as having ‘innovative glass’ which somewhat incredibly could provide views into the building, although it appears that section has now been removed.

Despite facing onto King’s Cross and St Pancras, two heritage assets of high significance, the website does not mention their importance and doesn’t even include a visual of these buildings compared to the development.

To shrink this development, we must effectively cut through the nonsense of these public benefits to isolate what genuinely represents a benefit to the public, and truly put considerations of heritage ‘front and centre’.

A detailed discussion is had on the BCAAC website here.

What are these Public Benefits?

One of the particularly vague and bamboozling public benefits is that of a ‘whole life carbon approach’.

A whole life carbon approach would see the building’s carbon footprint minimised substantially.’

The website goes on to make some calculations which claim that their whole life carbon approach would save 7,250 tonnes of CO2.

It then goes on to proudly claim that this amount of CO2 represents 10% of the annual CO2 usage of the King’s Cross Ward.

But without further investigation into the accuracy of these figures one can conclude such a mathematical comparison is largely meaningless. The figure of 7,250 tonnes represents absolute savings of CO2 for a building, whereas the annual CO2 usage of the King’s Cross Ward represents annual usage for a population.

While the mathematical implications of this may not be clear, to those who are interested the inconsistency relates to a branch of physics called Dimensional Analysis, which summed up briefly states that apples are not bananas.

A more meaningful comparison could be made considering the lifetime CO2 emissions of residents of King’s Cross to match the lifetime emissions of the building, which taking the life expectancy in the UK as 80 years would reduce that figure of 10% to 0.1%.

The assessment also fails to take into account that by far the most sustainable option in terms of carbon emissions is to repurpose or extend the current building. 7,250 tonnes of saved CO2 makes no mention of the amount of CO2 which will be emitted in the first place thanks to demolishing an existing structure and building a new one.

In other words, behind the bamboozling statistics and technospeak is 7,250 tonnes of absolute nonsense.

And if you were wondering, that looks like this:

But if we really start to investigate this graphic further, it reveals itself as a grossly misleading and absurd item of ‘fake news’.

Firstly, the website claims to save 7,250 tonnes of carbon dioxide. But the graphic purports to represent 7,250 tonnes of carbon. As carbon dioxide is formed from carbon and oxygen, 7,250 tonnes of carbon dioxide only represents 1,977 tonnes of carbon.

So, 1,977 tonnes of carbon are saved, not 7,250 tonnes, only 27% of what was claimed.

The density of carbon in its form as graphite is 2,226 kg/m^3.

Therefore 1,977 tonnes of carbon (with 1 tonne being 1000kg) represents a volume of 876m^3.

This represents the volume of a box of about 10 metres square.

In other words, something which could fit inside the current Belgrove House itself.

Perhaps this is somewhat symbolic of the entirety of the developer’s approach: smoke, mirrors, and plain old BS to bamboozle the public and jump up claims to public benefit. If the truth can reduce such an enormous pile of nonsense to nothing, perhaps we can also succeed in reducing the scale of the development itself to something more appropriate and respectful of the area.

BCAAC takes on Belgrove House

Calculations verified by a Master of Chemistry

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