Insert new Town Hall offices here..

A COUNCILLOR snapped this shot and sent it to me earlier today… in the distance is the site of where these controversial new council offices planned by Camden will be. That briefing by council officers for wavering Labour councillors I was on about in the last post seems to have done the trick for the leadership – and the special meeting of members tonight now looks like finding an agreement to press ahead with it all. I wonder how many voting in favour of the proposals tonight will volunteer to stand in the ribbon-cutting pictures when it opens…

17 Comments on Insert new Town Hall offices here..

  1. Cllr Peter Brayshaw // April 16, 2011 at 2:34 am //

    I never reveal Labour Group discussions. I am personally on record on two Scrutiny Committee meetings, and references to Cabinet, as supporting the new office building. This is because it is hugely cheaper and much more cost-effective than any other option, saving millions that can be put into frontline services as vital capital and revenue. I also proudly welcome the provision of a new public swimming pool complex (long-desired by Somers Town people) and the new Library in my Ward, as well as better access for my constituents to Council services..

    I hereby volunteer to proudly take part in the ribbon-cutting in 2014, because of these massive benefits.

    |By the way, your photo (taken by a Councillor not a Labour member, I was myself on the same visit) may puzzle your readers. It’s from North to South, from the Granary building, about to open inSeptember as the University of the Arts. The potential Council back-office is where the gasometer is in the distance, nestling against St Pancras Station and to the right (West) of the circulat white Kings Cross Station canopy, all in my currently very deprived Ward of St Pancras and Somers Town. The foreground “stumps” are an array of new fountains (not paid for by Camden!), leading to steps to the Canal and the bridge to the boulevard by the German Gym. 5,000 new residents, 20,000 new jobs! Delighted Camden Council itself plans to be part of this regeneration,

    • Richard Osley // April 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm //

      Interesting points, Peter. As you can see, however, the original post does say ‘in the distance’.

      Out of interest , in terms of what the people of Somers Town have ‘long desired’, where do you think new affordable housing ranks in their minds?

      After all, there is no new housing from the Brill Place opportunity and I’m not sure whether or not the people of Somers Town have ‘long desired’ a research centre there.

      And among the boulevards of the King’s Cross redevelopment site, how many family sized units of social housing will there be? Not even four figures.

      Still, people will be able to escape their overcrowded flats with a quick dip in the new pool. Cut that ribbon!

  2. Boldly said, Peter B!

    Twas I that took the photo from the Granary. WOW – what lucky Arts students!

    But, coming back to B 3 (the working name of Camden’s proposed new offices potentially where the gasholder stands): why, was Peter posting at 2.34 am – a troubled mind?

  3. lessdeceived // April 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm //

    Methought I heard a voice cry, ‘Sleep no more!

  4. Theo Blackwell // April 16, 2011 at 5:35 pm //


    I fear comments as silly as the utterly stupid ‘Save Our Kings Cross’ (then 67 acres of wasteland) headline from the CNJ in 2006, which you bizarrely chose to highlight in your recent recap of great headlines.

    43% affordable on Kings Cross, show me where a development coming near to this in size has achieved similar – btw the idea is mixed development, not building a massive estate next to, er, massive estates.

    And Brill Place, fyi, had a very significant contribution to ‘better homes’ – not to mention its presence being a source of jobs and growth in a historically deprived area.

    If you want to take a council on about housing, take Westminster please.

    • Richard Osley // April 16, 2011 at 6:03 pm //

      Thanks Theo.. for answering on behalf of Peter.

      Your figure is a little misleading because when you say 43 percent, you don’t mean the whole site – you mean of the housing that is going on the site. That’s 43 percent of the not huge amount of housing is going on the site in the first place. Once you then ask, how much of the affordable housing that is going in King’s Cross will be family sized, the units that Camden and other areas of London are crying out for, the figure shoots down. Not even 1,000 affordable housing units on Europe’s biggest brownfield site.

      Of course, the idea is not to turn the redevelopment site into a big council estate, nobody wants that and, hey, there’s not much cash to be made in doing that… but surely you agree less than 1,000 family homes at affordable price is the thin edge of the deal. Maybe that’s why the Town Hall chamber was full of warnings back in 2006 and the *unwhipped* planning committee acted like it did.

      Brill Place is another story…

  5. Brill Place jobs? Five lab assistant traineeships a year. Economic benefits? Given the whole building is oriented towards St Pancras station, staff are mostly going to go there for lunch etc – not much benefit to St Pancras and Somers Town in that… (the odd cup of coffee from staff walking from Euston in the morning maybe).
    Yes, some building jobs for the time of rebuilding, but there’d be building jobs whatever went on the site.

    And don’t worry Cllr Brayshaw, I’m sure no one thinks you are the leaker.

  6. Theo Blackwell // April 17, 2011 at 12:29 am //

    Science. Boo. Let’s ban it – when will the Green Party make an accommodation with the Enlightenment, I wonder? (Honestly, you cant deny the local impact of Brill Place on Somers Town – I look forward to links with the school as well).

    The homes argument was well debated (you missed out the 600 student homes, which takes pressure off the local housing market btw), but the idea for the development was much more of a balance. For more homes, what would there be less of Camley Nature Reserve? Public squares? University of Arts perhaps?

    One of the striking ironies about the 2006 debate was when people demanded more public space, more homes, community centres and more local jobs – but there is only x amount of space. More amusing was the comment that there was too much business, but not enough jobs – begging the question about where some think jobs actually come from?

    • Richard Osley // April 17, 2011 at 12:34 am //

      Ok, balance. I get that. Nobody doesn’t want that. Just asking: How many – on one of the biggest redevelopment sites in Europe – family sized affordable homes will there be?

  7. No Theo, not ban science but fund it properly and don’t subject it to political interference. The Green Party calls for a minimum of 1% of GDP to be spent on scientific research and development, and for the Haldane principle, calling for political non-interference in allocation of resources, to be applied.

    Neither of which the recently ex Labour government did…

    But the science should be done in the right place, not where the scientists themselves don’t want to do it (and many, probably most, scientists at Mill Hill don’t want to move).

    As for the 600 student units, that’s a hideous, 27-storey rabbit hutch that will be expensive privately run accommodation, which will be out of the financial reach of a majority of students, a different market to most student accommodation in Camden.

  8. This is David Pike’s dream of back in the day come true! – I remember his sketch showing the the new TH on the Kings X site in the 1980’s. It’s about time the Council operated from a modern building – Kensington achieved this courtesy of Sir Basil Spence way back in the 1970’s and it always amazed me that Camden, a similar high profile inner London Borough couldn’t get it’s act together to provide proper modern civic and office accomodation. But it’s always had a bit of a sack cloth and ashes approach to life; a need to reflect in its accomodation, furniture and general ambience the worst that its most disadvantaged residents were experiencing. A real lack of aspiration and leading from behind as if to do otherwise somehow showed a lack of real committment and understanding. Good to see that the new Labour Group has moved on!

  9. Theo Blackwell // April 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm //

    The Green Party controversially squeezed through that policy very recently, no? ( I’m not sure what “calling for” 1% means in the real world, actually).

    Science is already done (and has been done) in many parts of Camden, in many sites, in many university campuses – not just Mill Hill. Camden has been the ‘right place’ for science for quite a long time now.

    Reducing pressures on private rented accommodation from students, the second largest student population in the country, should be a priority. Here students pay weel through the odd in the rented market but thatnk you for confirming the Green Party’s resistance to extra student homes – we’ll chalk that one up for later use!

    I don’t understand why you are against tall buildings either – the site suggested is quite far away from “somers town ward”, sounds like the usual anti-regeneration, anti-growth, anti-change agenda which often dominates the pages of the local press – still fighting the KX development 5 years on.

  10. Michael Read // April 17, 2011 at 2:07 pm //

    When someone uses the terms “affordable” and “student” with housing in the same sentence reach for a gun. These words do not mean what you think they mean – which is precisely why Mr Blackwell use them.

    Affordable in the context here, and in relationship to a two to three-bedroom property equates to properties starting circa £450k.

    What affordable doesn’t mean is social housing for which the rent on equivalent property is about £120 a week.

    Cynics might suggest that the reason politicians are using affordable here is that they want to do something they don’t want to be seen doing. And a really cynically cynic, say a fully-formed politician, might say the real purpose of providing this affordable housing is social cleansing – of that group of individuals who can’t afford affordable mortgages.

    So to the celebration of student housing as a good “cos it relieves pressure on local accommodation”, as Blackwell opines.

    Does it really need to be pointe out that it is not a very good idea to put into a community a block full of lads and lasses whose main purpose is to be out on the lash. And even if that wasn’t so, what’s the betting that student fees running out at £9000 a year a lot of the would-be good time generations will be electing to stay with mom and dad at home.

    That would appear to be a reasonable assumption which would break the student accommodation business model.

  11. Hi Theo,

    The science policy passed democratically at Green Party conference after wide consultation, most elements of it by large majorities. Sorry, don’t want to be insensitive to a Labour Party member in reminding them that there’s still a party that makes policy democratically…

    And perhaps you might like to look at a ward map to refresh your memory – that is St Pancras and Somers Town ward.

    You might also want to ask your Labour colleagues on the former council, which agreed a height limit across the whole King’s Cross site of 14 storeys, why a 27-storey building here is a very bad idea…

  12. Albert Shanker // April 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm //

    How can you socially cleanse a 67 acre wasteland which no one was living in?

  13. Cllr Peter Brayshaw // April 19, 2011 at 11:08 pm //

    On returning after a few days to Richard Osley’s site, was initially pleased to see no less than 14 posts flagged, then disappointed to find most were Richard, Natalie, and my colleague Theo. If this is so controversial, where are the other thousands of local residents? (eg the ones who failed to vote for Natalie in the Council Elections, and failed to back her opposition to UKCMRI)

    No correspondent has challenged the financial appraisals. No-one has denied the benefits brought forward to the people of Somers Town and St Pancras ward. The real debate seems to be whether the March 2005 Camden DC Committee was right or wrong in granting the outline Kings Cross Planning Permission (subsequently upheld in face of a Judicial Review, and confirmed by the successor Committe in November 2006.

    The constraint on building social housing is not land. It is ginance. By definition, if non-market, it needs public subsidy. Even five years ago that was scarce, and I understand the Kings Cross development used up all of Camdens Governement (via Housing Corporation, later HCA) allocations for several years. Six years on from initial planning permission, no housing (or anything else!) has opened on the site. Ironically, the first budiling of housing, in Zone R, is socail housing (through public subsidy via One Housing)

    There is a Local Lettings Policy which gives my Ward and other neighbouring highly deprived Ward, priority for social housing when built. The letter of Grant of Planning Permission specified 23% of units to be 3 or 4 bedroom. For interested readers the Camden website (click on Environment…Planning…2004/2307/P) goves hundreds of detailed pages of documentation on the market housing, social rented, and several categories of “intermediate”.

    I spoke at the Committee in March 2006, supporting as strongly as I could the benefits which would flow from the evlopment. I regret deeply that the vagaries of the global financial crash have delayed real homes for real people, especially for the much-overcrowded people of my Ward. But I am delighted that social housing, now being built, and other public sector development including the University of the Arts, are leading the way.

    PS- an application has just gone in by Travis Perkins and Unite for a large-scale student accomodation-led development in St Pancras Way. We Ward Councillors have had several meetings with them. There is also likely to be another application in a similar location. All these developers say they will reduce pressure on other local housing. Having (like Natalie) knocked on all doors in the Ward, I know many former Council family flats are onw in the hands of buy-to-let landlords, the going rate for a maisoneette on the Council estate I live in is £530 per week (“would suit student shares”)

    Sorry post is long, but some misconceptions need rebutall

    • Richard Osley // April 20, 2011 at 10:56 am //

      Thanks Peter, no need to apologise for length of post, interesting to hear your thoughts.

      It’s fair to point out, however, that the new One Housing homes you mention here amount to 32 or 33 family sized affordable homes (described by the press release as a large proportion).
      Are we all delighted with that figure?

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