King's Cross is central to London's development
King’s Cross is central to London’s future – and its development must be done properly.
The King’s Cross redevelopment involves massive investment in transport to an already well-connected location. But the wider regeneration scheme may extend central London out of its existing limits into the north east, creating a major expansion zone.
Local community groups have fought to introduce a different mixture of housing, retail and leisure facilities to the one favoured by the developers. This stand-off says much about the difficulties of the particular model of urban regeneration the British now use.
The area has hitherto represented a failure of imagination and good government. The large zone of development that should now emerge will radically transform a wind-swept ex-industrial tract of the capital.
Does it always have to be this difficult? There is a presumption in the UK against development on green land, which means that so-called brownfield land must be well-used. Our political system demands that major sites like King’s Cross deliver high density with improved design and energy-efficiency standards.
The transport in the King’s Cross area will be extraordinarily good, with three major mainline stations, several Underground lines, and the Eurostar’s new home at St Pancras.
But Kings Cross needs to be ‘got right’. A planning or architectural failure would be horribly visible within the centre of London. Despite all the controversy, the scale of effort and imagination involved should deliver success. King’s Cross could then, finally, shake off its historic position as the grimmest place in the centre of the capital.
Tony Travers is the director of the Greater London Group at the London School of Economics