CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Conservationists to fight plans for new tower of research labs

Dramatic transformation planned for storage units

22 June, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

How the new building opposite King’s Cross station would look

PLANS for a new 10-storey glass and steel complex opposite King’s Cross station would clash with the area’s Victorian heritage, say objecting conservationists.

Council officials will be asked to grant building consent for the overhaul of Belgrove House, currently home to a storage firm and a branch of McDonald’s.

New high tech labs, which will include facilities for researchers working on vaccines, are proposed for the site.

Developers the Precis Group, which own Access Self Storage, say they are consulting on a design which would create a landmark building and open up 1,000 new jobs. Opponents, however, say the location is in one of the most historically sensitive in London – facing the Grade I-listed facades of both King’s Cross and St Pancras stations, surrounded by Argyle Square at the rear.

The Bloomsbury conservation area advisory committee (BCAAC) has already written to the Town Hall with a raft of objections even though a formal planning application has yet to be submitted.

Hugh Cullum, the committee’s chair, said: “The Euston Road frontage faces some of the country’s most iconic buildings. The site is almost entirely surrounding by Grade I and II-listed buildings.”

The developers say the block will be used for life science research. Other features include 33 new socially rented homes built at a separate site nearby, a new step free entrance into King’s Cross tube station, a shop and a ground floor auditorium for public use.

But Mr Cullum said: “The proposed building fails every test which should be applied to any development in a conservation area. “Of most concern is the inappropriate scale. The area to the south of Euston Road has historically always been of a small scale, and a fine urban grain.

“The most notable exception to this is the Standard Hotel – the former Camden Town Hall Annexe – whose scale is highly regrettable and dates from a time when ­little value was attached to heritage assets. It should set no precedent for nearby developments.”

He added that the plans would be a stark contrast to celebrated Victorian buildings opposite. He added: “This would diminish the architectural effect of these stations – designed as grand statements announcing the entrance to London – and thus diminish the setting of these Grade I-listed assets.”

The BCAAC added that the use of glass and steel was “completely at odds with its historic neighbours”.

Architect Steve Smith, whose firm were responsible for the nearby HQ of internet giant Google, said the height of the building matched others along Euston Road in scale and height, and dropped down levels to match housing in nearby Argyle Square.

He added: “It is appropriate for a building of this scale. It is a gateway in to London. We want people to step out of Euston or St Pancras and look up at it. At the moment, it is a slightly disappointing frontage and it deserves something much better.”

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