Work to ensure that redevelopment of Belgrove House respects the heritage of the area has taken a new turn as it is discovered that Camden made a significant error in their assessment of the site’s historic interest.
Camden are required to write appraisals for their conservation areas, which are an attempt to document the special historic and architectural interest of the area and the buildings within them. They form the basis for assessing the appropriateness of new development, and whether buildings within the conservation area are likely to be redeveloped or preserved.
Appraisals are a material consideration in planning decisions and are supposed to be an authoritative source of information for the importance of different aspects of a conservation area and the buildings within them, along with their architectural and historic significance. Belgrove House lies within the King’s Cross Conservation Area, and is assessed in the King’s Cross appraisal.
But recent research has shown that the King’s Cross appraisal failed to recognise that Belgrove House is in fact the former King’s Cross Coach Station, built c.1930 to serve commuters using King’s Cross and St Pancras Stations. The appraisal incorrectly asserts that the King’s Cross Coach Station was demolished to make way for the current Belgrove House in 1950, a totally unsubstantiated and incorrect claim. This is despite there being multiple photographs showing Belgrove House from as early as 1932, including in its use as a coach station.
Serious questions should now be asked about Camden’s fitness for purpose in protecting their heritage assets. Only last year another significant error was discovered at application stage in the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Appraisal which led to the demolition of an important Victorian hospital courtyard. Camden had mistakenly believed that the former Royal Free Hospital was Grade II listed and had therefore omitted to include it on the local list or even on the ‘positive contributors’ list. This led to the applicant pretending that the courtyard had little to no historical significance, using this to argue for its demolition which was eventually granted.
The error that Camden has made in relation to Belgrove House means that it is also not contained on the list of positive contributors, placing it at a greater risk of demolition.
Given that this is the second time within a year that a significant error in Camden’s appraisals has been identified at application stage, these documents can no longer be taken as an authoritative source of information on which to base decisions. This threatens the security of Camden’s conservation areas and calls into question Camden’s ability to effectively administrate and protect them.
And while the hospital error represents a simple mistake albeit with dire consequences, the assertion that the King’s Cross Coach Station was demolished and replaced with Belgrove House in 1950 is a totally unsubstantiated and incorrect claim, calling into question the accuracy of Camden’s assessment of their heritage assets and the methods of research used in making those assessments.
This new discovery is however good news for the BCAAC and opens the possibility of preserving the former King’s Cross Coach Station and further exploring its historic significance rather than to accept its demolition. Its use as a coach station has clear links to the history and heritage of the area as a transport hub, and the fact that it was built at an earlier date also makes the building more historically significant, linking it to other important 1930s buildings in the area.
It appears that the reason the side elevations of Belgrove House are so bleak is not by design but because they were bricked up when the station closed down and was repurposed as a warehouse. Inspection of the above photograph compared to the below supports this claim.
Differences in the brickwork can be observed between the two columns, especially at ground level.
Repurposing the building and removing these walls would preserve the historic links to the area and better reveal the significance of the building, while also providing a more engaging frontage onto Crestfield and Belgrove Streets.
The Development Management Forum will be held online, this Thursday, at 19:00. Details to follow for those who are interested.