Passions run high over gas holders' future

PUBLISHED: 11:28 16 November 2005 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 September 2010

A DEBATE has begun over the future of historic gas holders on the King's Cross development site. Developer Argent Ltd wants to move the Victorian gas holders to a site north of the canal and develop them to create a shopping complex on the ground floor a

A DEBATE has begun over the future of historic gas holders on the King's Cross development site.

Developer Argent Ltd wants to move the Victorian gas holders to a site north of the canal and develop them to create a shopping complex on the ground floor and luxury flats above.

But the King's Cross Community Development Trust, which represents 75 community groups in Islington and Camden, has announced it will continue to fight for the reinstatement of the gas holders on their original site.

The trust's co-director James Goodwin said: "We want to see all four gas holders re-erected on their original site alongside the Culross and Stanley buildings - which Argent are proposing to knock down - to create a historic quarter and focal point for the whole development."

Judith Martin, an expert in the preservation of industrial buildings, who is working with the King's Cross Conservation Area Advisory Committee, supported the trust's plans but said she would accept a compromise.

"If the gas holders must be moved then it seems to me that their removal from the historic quarter should be compensated for by the creation of a spectacular landmark office building within the gas holders on the new site," she said.

CAMDEN will be the real winner of the King's Cross development - say disgruntled Islington residents.

People living near to the future development have told of their fears that Islington will absorb all the negative impact of the King's Cross development, while Camden residents will reap the rewards.

Hugh Jenkins, chairman of the King's Cross Community Development Trust, which represents 75 community groups in Islington and Camden, said it was important that developer Argent created facilities which will benefit both boroughs.

He says the trust is particularly concerned about the proposed creation of a new access route which will be located directly opposite Copenhagen Street in Islington.

"It will be the only access to the development and therefore all the traffic will be filtering through this one residential area.

"This will almost certainly create a 'rat run' and will be very bad news for residents.

"We have been trying to get the developers to move the access road further along York Way but this is one aspect they are not prepared to budge on."

Cally Rail Group chairwoman Diana Shelley said: "At the moment it does seem that Islington residents are going to get a raw deal when this development goes up.

"All of the focus is on Camden but as an Islington resident who will be greatly affected by this development, I think it is important that we receive some benefits."

Argent King's Cross chief executive Roger Madelin said: "The main body of the King's Cross site lies within Camden Council's jurisdiction so most of the planning agreements will be with Camden. Though there have of course been close discussions between Argent King's Cross, Islington Council and Camden Council.

"We want the development to be open to all Londoners and detailed access to particular facilities, once they are approved and built, will be discussed between the councils."

THE LATEST plans for developing the King's Cross railway lands have been slammed by MP Frank Dobson.

Mr Dobson, the Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, said the 67-acre site was "a last chance saloon" to build much-needed facilities for the borough.

But he has branded the plans by developer Argent Ltd as inadequate for failing to provide enough affordable housing and a secondary school - especially as Camden Council has admitted there will soon be a serious shortage of secondary school places.

Mr Dobson said: "The plans don't reflect current needs. There is considerable pressure for an additional secondary school in Camden."

He added: "There isn't sufficient housing, in particular social housing, for local people."

Mr Dobson claimed a large block of affordable housing has not been built in the borough since the 1970s.

Public consultation on the plans, which include a primary school, swimming pool, sports hall and housing, ends on November 21. Camden Council bosses will decide whether to give the scheme the thumbs-up.

A spokeswoman for Argent Ltd said: "The proposed development does not trigger the need for a secondary school. There will be a two-form entry primary school which will more than cater for the development."

She added: "The revised proposals include 1,946 new homes, plus student housing on top. That is considerably more than the adopted planning brief which calls for 1,800 homes and the adopted London Plan, which refers to 1,250 by 2016. Housing will be a key part of the development.

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