London Tomorrow last Wednesday


Last Wednesday (despite the tube strike) I went to the Estates Gazette’s London Tomorrow conference in the German Gym at King’s Cross. It was (despite the tube strike) packed, due in no small part, I suspect, to the fact that the highlight of the day was going to be a tour of Argent’s King’s Cross site itself; we weren’t disappointed, more on that later. Firstly this is what the speakers had to say: 


King’s Cross

  • 67 acres all under 1 ownership
  • Largest consent in London, ever
  • Sainsburys to move into offices (almost certainly)
  • 9 other parties interested, they are, according to Argent Chief Exec Roger Madelin big, cuddly and exiting” but no names as yet
  • 1st phase of 200 resi units to start in 2010
  • No spec build so completion time “impossible to say” according to Sir David Clementi (Chairman King’s Cross Central) but somewhere in the region of 10-14 years
  • 10 new streets to be built, last new street was Kingsway in 1906 (so says Roger Madelin)
  • All 3 gassomiters to be pulled down (2 down already), packed up and sent up north to be sandblasted, they will then return to King’s Cross where they will be re-erected!


Kings Cross Gassomiter.JPG


 Stratford, Westfield - Jonathan Daniels, Development Director, Westfield 

  • M&S + John Lewis/Wairose under construction
  • 1,200 resi units next to the superstores yet to start
  • Master-plan yet to come forward
  • Development partners yet to be found


Battersea, Nine Elms, American EmbassyWilliam Jackson, Partner, Cushman &  Wakefield 

  • 100 sites looked at
  • A congressional rule that an American architect be used, 4 in the running at the moment
  • 2012 start
  • Workforce 80% British


Battersea, The Power StationJeremy Castle, Planning Director, Treasury Holdings 

  • To protect the views from Westminster Bridge the new plans propose buildings no higher than the base of the chimneys, an area defined as the “Cloak of Invisibility” by starchitect Vinoly
  • Development will be 50% open space
  • Power station itself could be for offices and will have a £150m repair bill



  • Jon Rouse, Chief Exec of Croydon B.C said that the council had missed out on a number of new developments in the past but that now the borough policy will be one driven by potential developer/occupier needs rather than the council. He concluded by saying Croydon was “open for business”.


HCADavid Lunts, Regional Director 

  • HCA moving to Palestra next month and will be on the same floor as the LDA
  • Housing starts down 70% over the 1st half of 2009
  • Kick Start scheme to go nationwide
  • HCA will enter into “single conversation” with individual boroughs
  • “A rising market floats every boat” but in the future we will need to “get more for less”


London Mayor’s OfficeRichard Blakeway, Director of Housing 

  • The New London Plan will have a “presumption” against garden grab
  • No more Hobbit Homes
  • New developments to be Parker Morris +10%
  • Developers will have no grants for the affordable element unless the new standards are met
  • Better marketing for intermediate housing, possibly advertise via estate agents



Interesting stuff…now for the tour. We all know that this is a big site but it’s not until you get inside (a rare privilege) that you realise just how big it is. This is a 67 acre site (if you had a garden that big you’d buy a tractor) which is a 5 minute sprint from Oxford Street. OK so its big, what’s on it. First stop on the tour, not so much a stop as a “now look through the window to your right” kind of thing (we’re on a bus at this point), was the shared service yard currently under construction and worthy of a mention because it’s going to be underground so no noisy deliveries in the middle of the night for future residents. The tour really got going however once we crossed Regent’s Canal and proceeded (led by Argent Chief Exec Roger Madelin himself) on foot. There’s only one thing under construction on the site at the moment, The University of the Arts, which includes the new home of Central Saint Martins. It’s a big building and it needs to be, 6,500 students and staff will be working there and it’ll have 50 arts and music venues inside it.


University for the Arts.JPG

The area immediately to the south doesn’t look like much at the moment but it’s set to become the centrepiece of the whole development, they’re calling it Granary Square, and it’ll be one of the (here comes that word again) biggest urban spaces in Europe, think Trafalgar Square kind of big. And as if that wasn’t enough it’ll have 1,000 water jets imbedded in it which (wait for it) you (yes you/me/us, Jo public) will be able to control musically with MP3 players, not too sure how this one’s going to work in reality, but it’s a great idea.



Dockers Tavern.JPG

As I’ve already mentioned the Victorian gas-holders are being re-erected (after a spot of sandblasting up north) on the site. Gas was an important fuel for a railway station primarily as a source of illumination, but in the days of steam coal was king. The average fuel consumption for a steam train back in the day was 20 miles per ton and there would have been hundreds going in and out of the station every day, to sustain that you needed a ready supply of coal and lots of it.


Above is a picture of the Dockers Tavern and it lies on the ground floor of the two storey Coal Drops complex. Whenever you see a work-site pub like this one it can mean one of two things, the workers have unsocial hours or the workplace is in an isolated environment, both were true of King’s Cross. The Coal Drops were where coal from the north-east of England was bought to be distributed by horse and cart not only to the station but to London as well. In a few years time these will have been refurbished Covent Garden style, transformed into a mixture of shops, restaurants, bars and galleries as will the offices fronting Regent’s canal, our next and final stop.


One thing that strikes you about Regen’s Canal from the upper floors of the Coal Office is (a)how wide it is and (b) how close to the centre of London it is. I never thought I’d say this about King’s Cross, but this, before any redevelopment work has started, is a pleasant spot. The tour ended here, I reckon we had been shown around 40% of the site, just enough to glimpse of the future. 



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