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Olympics brandished as weapon to fend off inquiry

PUBLISHED: 19:04 16 March 2006 | UPDATED: 10:25 07 September 2010

Olympic preparations in King's Cross will be ruined if campaigners contest the £2billion King's Cross redevelopment, it is claimed. A request for a public inquiry into the plans has been made by the King s Cross Railway Lands Group and Camden s Green Part

Olympic preparations in King's Cross will be ruined if campaigners contest the £2billion King's Cross redevelopment, it is claimed.

A request for a public inquiry into the plans has been made by the King's Cross Railway Lands Group and Camden's Green Party after plans were approved by Camden Council last week.

But council officer Peter Bishop, who negotiated with developer Argent over the scheme, said: "King's Cross is essential for the Olympics as the international press are going to be based in Bloomsbury.

"If this goes to the Secretary of State it will take between two and a half to three years and a substantial amount of money. We would miss the Olympics completely with that.

"In Heathrow, it cost 10 million for an inquiry and he agreed it anyway. If that happened here whether or not Argent could build it in the same way would also be uncertain."

Camden Council estimates that 25,000 people will leave King's Cross every hour for the Olympic park in Stratford.

The cost of improvements to cope with the games for Camden, Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster will be £250million - mostly paid for with central government funds.

Camden plans to use business rates and borrowing to make up the difference.

On top of that investment Argent will be responsible for completing commercial space around the station, including the Great Northern Hotel, by 2012.

Mr Bishop added: "There will be a big rush to get it finished on time. One or two commercial buildings will be built but the rear block won't be finished by then. The work shouldn't put anyone off. Network Rail will complete its new concourse and most of the public space around the station will be ready."

But Michael Edwards, of the Railway Lands Group, said: "The level of consideration given by Camden Council to Argent's plan was so low we are relatively optimistic that the Secretary of State will call it in.

"The Olympic argument isn't an adequate reason for building something which isn't a good scheme. Also, they can't start building until 2007 so there is no reason we can't have a public inquiry before then."

In the next two weeks, Camden will announce a competition for architects to design a section of boulevard between the stations.

katie.davies@hamhigh.co.uk

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A casino will also be part of King's Cross's £2billion redevelopment.

This is despite an admittance by the developer Argent's chief executive he himself does not like them. Many residents are also opposed to the idea.

Roger Madelin said: "I have never been in a casino and I have no ambition to go in one. But other cities and places have them and for some reason people find it somewhere they like to go.

"We don't want one but we need one."

No plans have been submitted for the location of the casino. However, it is likely to be among leisure facilities south of the canal near the station or around the Midland Goods Shed in the north.

Negotiations are also underway for the British Film Institute to move in, joining the University of the Arts and The Guardian on the north side of the site.

A symphony concert hall is also planned and a canal bridge made entirely of glass has been commissioned.

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