The Independent London Newspaper
22nd July 2014

Letters

Camden Town Hall annexe sale raises question: How high can buildings go?

Existing Town Hall annexe could be sold off

Existing Town Hall annexe could be sold off

Published: 30 August, 2012
PROPERTY NEWS by DAN CARRIER

THE world-renowned Georgian squares of Bloomsbury and the iconic St Pancras Station must be protected from high rise developers, a leading property mogul has told the New Journal.

Developer Harry Handelsman, who masterminded the refurbishment of St Pancras Chambers, which has become home to model Lily Cole and other famous faces, made the appeal in response to Camden Council’s attempts to sell its annexe building of offices in King’s Cross.

With negotiations continuing for sale of the eight-storey block in Euston Road, residents’ groups and conservation campaigners are lobbying the council to put together a planning policy that will give developers guidance as to how high they can build in the area.

They fear the south side of Euston Road is seen by developers as a prime opportunity, with some rundown 1960s tower blocks ready for redevelopment, and shopping parades tacked on to Victorian and Georgian housing also being eyed up.

The New Journal has learned that one of the UK’s biggest developers, who do not want to be named, has made tentative enquiries over the price of buying up the Town Hall annexe, which the council says is too expensive to maintain. The developers say if they were to purchase it they would look to build a higher block than the eight storeys currently on site.

Mr Handelsman has now joined the fight to create a planning brief for the area.

He said with work under way to restore the Grade I-listed William Cubitt facade of King’s Cross station, it would be a crime to allow new high-rise developments opposite the station.

He said: “Having spent seven years painstakingly restoring the St Pancras Residences and Hotel, I am pleased with the plans to remove the annexe adjacent to King’s Cross Station and return to its original design, including the lovely piazza. I am, however, dismayed that there are rumours of potential developments in Euston Road facing these marvellous buildings that, in my opinion, would be detrimental to their character and presence.

He added: “Any new development that ex­ceeds in height that of the existing buildings would be detrimental to the context of the station buildings. Camden should take a strong view in opposing any such developments that are at odds with the landmark achievements at St Pancras and King’s Cross.”

His views have been backed by leading architect Paul Williams of Stanton Williams, the team that designed the new University of the Arts in King’s Cross and are currently laying out a new square at the front of the station.

He said: “We support the suggestion that a holistic masterplan should be commissioned by Camden, in order to explore the huge potential that exists for improving the setting of St Pancras Chambers and King’s Cross Station, unifying the north and south sides of Euston Road and maximising the benefits of the proposed new King’s Cross Square due for completion at the end of 2013. Due to its importance, the area should not be developed piecemeal.”

Richenda Walford of the Friends of Argyle Square said: “We are asking Camden to assess this whole section of Euston Road at once – before any applications come in.”

A statement from Camden Council said their Town Hall annexe had no confirmed sale or redevelopment plans yet.

A spokesman said: “Camden has had a huge reduction in the funding we receive from government. We are looking at ways to save money so that we can continue to deliver vital services for residents.

“The proposed sale of the Town Hall annexe is part of a programme to save Camden money on old and in-need-of-repair buildings. However, the site has not been sold and there are no current development plans.

“We take the Friends of Argyle Square’s concerns over this site very seriously and have been working with them on how they can help shape any future sale. This will include ensuring high-quality design.

“We do not have areas where we either support or prohibit tall buildings and our approach is supported from government, English Heritage and the Mayor’s office.”

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