Monday, 30 December 2013

Caledonian Road Proposals by Islington

Proposed Street Design changes in King's Cross:
How will pedestrians, walkability and the street environment be affected?

Islington proposals

Couldn't the simple principles of "Why Places Matter" (pop-up PDF) be very easily applied here?
* Greener Spaces
* Local High Street Shops
* Active healthy walking lifestyles
* Accessible and inclusive for everyone
* Distinctiveness and Character
* Designing together with local people

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Living Streets King's Cross Local Group meeting 7 October (Updated 30 December)

At last night's Living Streets King's Cross Local Group meeting, Tobias Newland and I caught up with Caroline Russell (chair of Islington Local Group). Caroline is researching, for Living Streets UK, how London local groups work and what motivates them - provided the following insights:

Living Streets UK has four main aims our local group relate to:
1. to be a local voice for living streets (where people want to live work and shop / play)
2. to form a community for change (towards living streets)
3. to make walking a natural choice
4. to be a national voice for living streets (where people want to live work and shop / play)
(although - interestingly - they were presented in the reverse order by Living Streets UK)
Three understandable main concerns of the organisation are: Income, Influence and Impact

The capacity of central London Local Authorities' highways departments (like LB Camden and LB Islington where we are) in the area of walking and cycling is often very limited. In many boroughs, walking and cycling is not embedded or culturally integrated in 'highways' or may even be at odds.
Could local groups like ours be more effectively consulted?
My first concern is that according to the new NPPF National Planning Policy Framework we are supposed to be moving "from consultation to collaboration" - genuinely working together rather than being 'consulted' to tick LA boxes. Also under the Localism Act 2011, planning is supposed to be moving towards 'neighbourhood planning' and working more locally - in ways which highways departments and Transport for London have not yet grasped.
Caroline suggested from her experience that junction review process at TfL had often ignored pedestrian traffic in junction assessments, even though walking represented as much as half the use of junctions. The TfL junction review also apparently did not seem to involve TfL Urban Realm staff who produce the "Valuing the Urban Realm Toolkit" - but was predominantly (motor) traffic-engineering based.

Notable Living Streets national campaigns currently coming up on the agenda include
"walk to work" and
"time to cross"

Our concern is that "walk to work" is largely workplace-motivated and in our current structure, our local group even in this very mixed-use transport interchange neighbourhood is still highly residentially based rather than workplace based. Would we be able to work with the University, Local Authority staff, Railway and Transport staff, etc.?
The "time to cross" campaign is pressing for increased time in pedestrian crossing cycles at signal-controlled junctions, based on reducing the average pedestrian speed. The rationale is that the ageing population is slower. However, in King's Cross we feel much broader change is needed to the layout of the public realm on the town square station squares and on reconfiguring the motor traffic gyratory system to make the area more accessible and walkable. 
Tuesday 8 October 2013


Update 30 December 2013
update on the King's Cross One-Way / Gyratory System

in the hands of LB Islington...

and Islington Cyclists' Plan...

October 2013
Given somewhat of a stalemate at the moment on the Neighbourhood Plan in King's Cross, and reading about others' experiences on the (closed) Linked-In Group Neighbourhood Planning - I thought this little article about the CLG's (Government's Department for Communities and Local Government) meeting on 'Neighbourhood Planning and Research' is worth sharing:

Marie-Claude Gervais 
Founder and Director at FORUM Research
Marie-Claude GervaisHi all,

Thanks for the contributions. Jackie, I am glad that what I said resonated with your experience.

Since this conversation was about the CLG meeting on "NP and research", I thought it would be good to share some feedback. Unfortunately I left soon mid-afternoon, so can only comment on the early part of the day. A few "take-outs" from me (James can give a fuller picture):


To be clear: this was only about academic research, rather than commercial, academic, policy and research to support FORUMS in their work.

As a former LSE academic, I was reasonably sympathetic. However, it may have been more productive to have a broader focus. So much research is needed to support the process - and at a fast pace - that it seems unwise to narrow the remit to academia. Academic contributions are invaluable for their objectivity and depth, but they do not help much to support good implementation in the short to medium term.

Essentially, the purposes of the meeting were for CLG to know what kind of research academics are currently doing on NP, to share with them research that CLG is currently doing, and to identify evidence gaps and try to fill them - in the context of CLG not funding any research.


The main research questions addressed, as far as I could see, are to do with:

a) the intended aims of localism and decentralisation, and how positive/negative, genuinely innovative, democratic or empowering this is;

b) how NP is actually being delivered: detailed case study analyses of NPs at different stages in their implementation and with different profiles. This seeks to answer questions such as: who gets involved / who is left out, what are the barriers/ how they can be overcome, what capacity of required and who has it or not, what is the impact of NP on the culture of LPAs, what type and amount of support LPAs provide to NFs, etc.

c) whether current implementation meets the intended aims of the policy.


It is early days. However, the findings of Dr Andrew Wallace and Paul Watt (Lincoln University) from studies in London confirm what I expected:

- geographical clustering in central / North London
- uneven capacity - with severe lack in some places
- uneven response to NP from local authorities
- dominance of middle class professionals in Forums
- aspiration to adopt a "responsible" response to planning
- contestation of neighbourhood boundaries
- preoccupation with neighbourhood "quality" and "aesthetics"
- relatively little focus on "structural" matters: welfare, equality, employment provisions...
- uncertainty / skepticism about policy efficacy and impact

They conclude (and I concur) that "marginal" populations need to be better integrated in the NP process, that most FORUMS are unwilling or unable to engage with welfare questions (e.g. housing, services, employment, transport, access to health), that there is a need to improve relationships between LPAs and Forums, and that the perspectives of relevant "outsiders" to a particular plan should be sought.


Another recurrent theme was the lack of capacity in relation to certain issues (e.g. consultation, welfare, structural matters, equality, etc) and the need to bring in outside expertise. There is plenty of expertise available strictly on planning matters, but little on other issues. Most forum participants think in terms of their personal experience - what they like or dislike - but very few have the social policy knowledge necessary to think about the underlying factors that help create better neighbourhoods for all.

I believe that summary does justice to the discussions I attended. James, take it away for the overview of the late afternoon session!


Principal Lecturer at University of Gloucestershire
A very full report from Marie-Claude!

My additions = brief & not hugely positive:

I felt that we tended to dance around the practicalities! But it was a start....

Hence I very much support 1 of the participant's (David Farnsworth's) point re “important principle as well as something that will strengthen" any research funding bid, if we make "a direct connection with practice and co-production with community practitioners and activists.”

I think there were/are all sorts of factors pulling in different directions viz....DCLG (apparently no ££ but policy drivers), academics hunting for scare ££ for academic (journal articles) - & not necessarily practically useful - research! Communities & their helpers (Localisty etc)...just wanting to know what works, what not, how to improve!

ABOVE + my opinions & other LinkedIn members who were there may wish to comment/elaborate/dissent......


Saturday, 10 August 2013

Barber, 78 Caledonian Road

78 Caledonian Road King's Cross - This skilled, friendly Nepalese barber provides haircuts from £7, every day of the week.
Support your local high street barber!

Monday, 3 June 2013

Living Streets has released this book nationally, about making better places and better streets and why these things matter.
It covers issues like:
Putting Place on the agenda (5)
Designing quality places with communities (7)
Valuing local distinctiveness and character (11)
Sharing inclusive and accessible streets (15)
Encouraging active, healthy people (19)
Living in safe and friendly neighbourhoods (23)
Growing thriving local shops and services (27)
Enjoying greener spaces (31)

It is free to download at

It has also sent copies to local councils including Camden and Islington, and would seem to reinforce some of the long-awaited guiding priciples for the Place Shaping document adopted by both Camden and Islington for King's Cross (May 2012): also downloadable as a pdf.

How to apply these principles in practice, especially in conjunction with the major planned changes in the town centre area, will be the next challenge.

Monday, 8 April 2013

April Walk

Hermann, Lisa, Tobias and I met with Kevin Golding-Williams, Living Streets' new public affairs manager, at St Pancras International for our latest walking meeting on Sunday 7 April.

We met at Sourced Market. After a brief introduction to our activities and campaigns over the last few years, and a (mental) bird's eye view of the complex developments in King's Cross over recent years, at the Parcel Yard, we then toured the restored King's Cross Station and then walked around the area, from Granary Square, along the canal towpath to Thornhill Bridge, Caledonian Road and Northdown Streets, to St Chad's Place (passing St Chad's Well) and via our plantings at Euro Car Parks Brittania Street to Argyle Square and to the Crick Centre site.

The main findings were
1. The long awaited 20mph limits in Camden, already in place in Islington, east of York Way and Kings Cross Road, would be an achievement. Kings Cross Square would be a boon when complete. The highway environment for pedestrians on Euston Road and the public realm of the gyratory system remains a problem for liveability for local people (including residents, and people working, shopping or visiting).

2. Collaboration between Camden, Islington and TfL would be essential to work for liveable and viable streets where people want to walk. Travel plans and walking plans for publicly owned and publicly accessible places would need to be continually developed to enable and encourage walking.

3. Walking links north of Euston Road; Battle Bridge / Google Bridge (across King's Cross Station tracks) and the Crick Centre walkway (between St Pancras and Euston Stations) were two important public highways which are currently obstructed (Cllr Brayshaw's ward).

4. We analysed Caledonian Road at Vaultex Cash Handling and further south on the gyratory one-way system, and found the street diverse but cluttered for pedestrians, uncomfortable to cross, and with many vacant shops (Cllr Convery's ward).

5. We walked in Wicklow and Britannia Streets, the latter has major building work cluttering the street, and we saw our guerilla planted bulbs coming out there and in Argyle Street (Cllr Hayward's ward).

6. At the congested corner of Midland Road and Euston Road, we noticed the planters on the footway under the canopy of Gilbert Scott Restaurant, which constrict the public highway (Cllr Brayshaw's ward).

The weather was pleasant and we were pleased to have caught up with various news on Hackney and Harringay councils, on Sustrans and Living Streets, on Somerstown Neighbourhood Forum's Big Local grant and the Neighbourhood Forum for King's Cross meeting, Friends of Argyle Square's campaign for building height restriction at the Town Hall annexe, Friends of Regents Canal and Thornhill Bridge Community Gardeners, the Canal Trust Cycling Plan, King's Cross Development Forum and the Kings Cross Gyratory Review, each through various different members in the group.

It was agreed the Deputy Mayor Transport Isabel Dedring through Living Streets ought to be advised again about the local significance to King's Cross people of neglected public realm quality, neglected street (as opposed to 'road') environments, and local air quality in Kings Cross, in respect of the walking environment, especially that outside the Kings Cross Central Development area.


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Maps and Blogs - Living Streets KX local group at TSGIS 15 Feb

Maps and Blogs 15 Feb for London Trainees and Students of GIS

Using the Web to enable Community activism

I spoke about the simple geographical information systems the local group uses, like maps and blogs. Invited via Adam Edwards, UCL and Neighbourhood Forum King's Cross

Participatory Design - Hanzl 2007:300 (Fig 4) Net participation – classification. after (Hudson-Smith et al., 2002) from "Information technology as a tool for public participation in urban planning: a review of experiments and potentials" in the Journal, "Design Studies" Volume 28, Issue 3, May 2007, Pages 289–307 

Link to this blog 

Our Kings Cross based local volunteer group uses simple online geographical information systems like maps and blogs. I am an architect and urbanist and interested in how GIS is used for participation in the community by non-experts.

Livings Streets Kings Cross used a google map to discuss alternative routes to the towpath for walking and cycling in King's Cross. Urban 'permeability' for commuting pedestrians and cyclists is relevant to the local transport planners working on regeneration and the gyratory removal. The Neighbourhood Forum in the area is closely interested (how I met Adam) and the community debates this, and permeability of the area in light of the new Google HQ, through the hyperlocal news site Kings Cross Environment and facebook.

Link to Living Street KX local group google map of towpath
working with Canal Trust developing alternative cycle routes and bridge (#googlebridgeKX)

Link to Fix my Transport Kings Cross          
(see also Fix My Street                               

Spacehive KX                                             

King's Cross Environment                           


February 15th 2013 5:15pm K4U.12 King's College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

This session will focus on technology and applications of GIS in an urban context and "big data" and will be comprised of five speakers giving 15 minute presentations.  This will be followed by a 15 minute panel Q+A session.  

Background to the session


Matt Leach, Community Insight Democratising Data and Mapping in the Housing sector
Matt will be speaking about and demonstrating and its recently launched sister product, and outlining ambitious plans to develop the platform further during 2013.

Roger Beecham, City University
Using visual analytics to explore gendered cycling behaviours within a large urban bike share scheme
Analysing over 10 million journeys made by 135,000 customers, Roger’s talk will explore differences between men’s and women’s usage of London’s Cycle Hire Scheme. He will demonstrate how, through depicting customers’ journeys spatially and at various temporal resolutions, relatively sophisticated insights into gender and cycle behaviour can be inferred.

Sue Grimmond, King's College London
Analysis of Surface Characteristics to Understand Urban Climate
This talk will showcase the use of vegetation characteristics in GIS data for London. Using LIDAR (NERC/ARSF and others) flights over London vegetation characteristics have been determined.  These data are then used with other derived surface characteristics to model processes at three spatial scales in London – city wide, local scale (around Strand Campus) and micro-scale. Global and London models of anthropogenic heat flux will also be briefly shown.
KCL contributors to this work include former Post-doc Dr Fredrik Lindberg (now Goteborg Univ. Sweden), Dr Thomas Loridan (now RMS), Simone Kotthaus (PhD student, KCL), and Lucy Allen (MSc EMMM, now RGS/IBG).

Jonathan Reades, King's College London
Pulse of the City: what large behavioural data sets can tell us about cities
Jon will be providing a brief overview of his work with telecommunications and transport providers, and highlighting some of the ways in which this can be applied to the study of transport and city planning.

Greg Cowan, Living Streets
Using the Web to enable Community activism
Greg will be speaking about the simple geographical information systems the local group uses, like maps and blogs.


Dear Adam, 

It was me you met on Saturday at the Neighbourhood Forum Launch, and I/we would be delighted to talk with your GIS Student and Trainee Group about how we use (fairly non-technical) geographical information systems to help develop our approach to living streets. (eg. see footer)

Besides walking, talking and a bit of guerilla gardening, we work mostly through simple public online mapping, geotagging and blogging and social networking tools, as we are not GIS 'experts'.

regards, Greg Cowan
King 's Cross Living Streets group chair

I met one of your chaps at my local Neighbourhood Forum (Kings Cross) and would be interested to know if you would be able to send a speaker to talk about your work to our GIS Student and Trainee group? We would be interested in particular in the way you use GIS to help develop your approach to living streets as well as raise awareness of their use and function in London.

Our group is a network of students and graduates from nine London universities, as well as allied groups in land survey and geomatics. Our website is and we are also on Facebook.

We have approached several other organisations such as Groundwork, and we recently hosted the Canals and Rivers Trust. Perhaps it would be interesting to combine the talks and create a bit of a panel discussion?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Adam Edwards

King's Cross Spacehive

Our Spacehive for King's Cross Gyratory :

King's Cross Square will soon open: but what will happen to the streets and paths separating it from its surroundings?
Towns slammed for wasting Portas cash, but others are embracing the Web to “crowdfund” life back into UK’s battered town centres 
A row around the slow progress being made by councils handed £1.2m in grants to rebuild battered high streets is building with predictable fervour. 
The Independent has reported that the so-called "Portas Pilots" have spent just 12 per cent of the £1.2m awarded in May, citing Freedom of Information Requests sent to councils.
The "town team" have also received criticism for spending £1,600 on a Peppa Pig costume and nearly £1,000 on postage, according to the paper.
But other towns across the UK have embraced crowdfunding, where the cost of civic projects is shared via the Web, to kickstart town centre revival. 
One town team, in Mansfield, took a portion of the Portas cash and raised the rest of the money they needed to pay for free town centre Wi-Fi by putting their project on
Business groups as far a field as Swansea, Ealing, Mansfield, Ramsgate, High Wycombe and Somerset have an array of creative initiatives grabbing local attention – and local cash.
A group outside Edinburgh turned an old phonebox into a microgallery, while a project in High Wycombe is turning empty shops into hubs to train young entrepreneurs.
Experian, the data giants, have agreed the first national match-funding initiative, offering Spacehive projects chunks of a £100,000 pot to get funding campaigns moving. 
Crowdfunding was pioneered in the USA by Kickstarter, which would typically be used to fund creative and digital projects. Spacehive takes the model to public space, and those who pledge only get charged if projects hit their funding targets. Bidders give money philanthropically – so they don’t retain any financial ownership over projects. But of course, those pledging towards local art projects or kids playgrounds get to benefit from using the great things they fund.
Nesta, the government’s innovation charity, has predicted that £15 billion would be raised in the UK alone through crowdfunding in 2015. 
Chris Gourlay, founder of, said:
“Getting our high streets back on track isn’t going to happen overnight but by embracing the Web we can tap into new sources of funding and create more cohesive communities. Crowdfunding is already enabling some brilliant ideas to come to fruition, and what we need to do is embrace local creativity without letting it get stifled amid bureaucracy and waste.” 
Notes for editors:
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is like a financial version of the concept underpinning Wikipedia - the idea that many hands make lighter work. The model works by taking online cash pledges - from businesses, public bodies and ordinary members of the public – and using them to fund popular projects.
As well as raising money, crowdfunding maximises community engagement. Even though some people may only contribute a few pounds, every contribution represents a degree of ‘buy-in’ that accentuates their sense of ownership of their community.
The model was pioneered in the USA by Kickstarter, which has been used to fund hundreds of millions of dollars worth of creative projects: from an Iraqi Shakespeare group who wanted to attend Oregon Shakespeare Festival through to new feature films. 
What is Spacehive? is a crowdfunding website specifically designed for the built environment. It’s been live since March and is now catching on across the UK.  
Supported by the Big Lottery Fund, BITC and the BPF and co-designed by Deloitte, the social enterprise maximises funding sources by allowing cash raised through the site to be combined with grants and other funding streams. People are only charged if the projects hit their targets. offers bespoke project management tools for public space initiatives. Each project is also verified by independent partner organisations (ATCM is one of them) to ensure they are viable before they start funding.
Spacehive projects have already attracted funders such as Tesco, Asda and Deloitte, as well as celebrity support from Stephen Fry, David Suchet and Ian Botham. 

Source: Spacehive Press Release 14 February 2013
Andrew Teacher/Blackstock/+44 7877423997/ 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Permeable King's Cross
To improve permeability through King's Cross, Rosie Tharp (TfL funded Canal Trust Strategic Cycle Routes Coordinator) and Tobias Newland (local campaiger) in a Living Streets Kings Cross Local Group meeting with me agreed it may be worth investigating installing a westbound cycle route on Wharfedale Road (shown yellow) to reduce congestion on the Regent's Canal around Thornhill Bridge area. It would also be important to make Wharfedale Road attractive to pedestrians coming from the new Kings Cross Central and Google developments walking to Caledonian Road and Angel.

Being part of the gyratory system, Wharfedale Road (A5203) would need to be considered in the review with TfL Streets (Claire Alleguen) and our Islington and Camden cycle planners.

Greg C.