Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Camden's plans for Kings Cross

"Predominantly north of Euston Road" was the phrase which jumped out at me from Councillor Sarah Hayward's cabinet portfolio report on Placeshaping King's Cross to Camden Council at the Town Hall on 7 November (Agenda p48). The community consultations in October 2011 (where Cr Hayward was not present) and in October 2010 strongly emphasised the need for permeability north-south across Euston Road (especially with the council relocating) and east-west across King's Cross station and York Way into Islington.

Although Camden says it wants to capitalise on "the opportunities presented by King's Cross Central and the 2012 Olympics" - and certainly its deal with the developer to move the Town Hall offices to Building B3 in Pancras Square will do that by selling off the Town Hall extension, the council's strategy commitment to improving cycling and walking, street environment and air quality and in the borough apparently stops right at its office doorstep.

A deputation from London Cycling Campaign (see LCC response to Placeshaping) to Council at the Town Hall on 7 November elicited a non-committal response from Council about working with TfL to improve streets and crossings in King's Cross. Council would not even review the planned cosmetic and piecemeal junction improvements on Euston Road, which it says TfL aims to complete in January. Councillors were interested to know from LCC about a corporate manslaughter claim against TfL, but did not express any willingness for council to work harder or more closely with TfL on improving the King's Cross transport hub area, beyond leaving everything to council officers in its transport department. (York Way and Pancras Square do not bode well.)

Another deputation in favour of increasing the diversity of sexual entertainment licences held that a 250m cordon proposed around premises would conventionalise sexual entertainment types to lap dancing and pole dancing. This rather than encouraging more diverse gay, women only, couples and bisexual entertainment for sexual stimulation, which might be tolerated with a 100m or 50m cordon in Camden. The latter subtle and diverse forms of entertainment for sexual stimulation, it was suggested by council however, may be so normal as to not require licencing.

Back to King's Cross; Camden councillors said Transport for London were highly resistant to the removal of the King's Cross Gyratory System, and councillors seemed unwilling to take the removal any further. Transport for London has "doubled the capacity" of King's Cross St Pancras Underground Station in the midst of Camden, without improving (or adequately future planning) the connections around the station or across the main roads - who knows about the 20 new streets Camden is to adopt? Those accessing King's Cross (a promised world-class destination in the making) are finding Camden's public realm here seriously underwhelming and deadly. The Mayor of London is unresponsive.

The political relationship between Camden and TfL (and also with the Mayor of London) is complex - especially Camden's relationship with TfL on the Red Routes, on (motor) transport, parking, and on street Skip and Scaffold licence incomes. Users of the public realm, those who want to walk and cycle and breathe safely and healthily - while living, working, shopping or playing in King's Cross - are suffering.

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