KING'S CROSS STEAMS AHEAD
Roger Madelin has revealed the full details of the 'mental and physical exhaustion' he felt after Camden councillors gave his mammoth King's Cross proposals the thumbs up last Thursday evening.
Argent's chief executive, giving his first interview in the wake of the decision, also discussed how he will select design partners once he has completed further planning negotiations.
The high-profile developer said he was worried at the beginning of the mammoth late night planning meeting that no judgement would be made about the £2 billion project, which had already spent six years in the pipeline.
He said: 'I suppose from a dispassionate point of view it was quite a spectacle. But it was high anxiety all the time.'
At one point during the committee hearing, councillors conducted a vote over whether to delay their decision, to give them more time to deliberate.
But the move was defeated by eight votes to six.
Madelin said: 'It's a cliché, but it's not just my scheme, it's London's scheme. I've got the best job in the country. To delay it would have been the wrong decision.' Now the 'rm must jump through several extra planning hoops before its scheme can start on site.
But London mayor Ken Livingstone is due to give the scheme his blessing imminently and observers believe that the Government Office for London will do the same.
The developer must also now negotiate planning permission for a small part of the development that lies in the borough of Islington.
Should this and the details of Section 106 arrangements with Camden go smoothly, Madelin will go about selecting design partners to take the crucial first phase of the project forward.
This first phase includes building speculative offices, residential and retail space, along with significant infrastructure, landscaping and other public-realm work.
It also includes the demolition of the Northern Stanley and Culross buildings and parts of the Great Northern Hotel, a move which has been backed by English Heritage.
Madelin has already received thousands of letters from interested practices vying to work on the project's design, adding to a Who's Who of UK architectural talent that has already come up with concepts.
The developer will have its work cut out to decide which weapon to use in an armoury that includes the big-gunning talents of MAKE, Allies and Morrison, Caruso St John and Eric Parry.
But Madelin made clear that the project would not be dominated by industry giants.
He said: 'We want to introduce some new names to London, whether they're young British practices or young Guatemalan practices.
'We have to think of a way to select exactly who we want to work with, without inviting 1,000 people to enter the competition.' The businessman also insisted that the selection process of architects - which could begin as early as this summer - will occur in a 'transparent way'.
The first phase of the project is due to start on site at the end of next year.
If everything goes to plan, it will be completed in 2010, with a second phase to follow by the 2012 London Olympics.
Another Argent director, Robert Evans, has previously summed up why completing by 2012 is of great importance.
'The whole of London is going to be on show. And King's Cross is going to be the arrival point for the millions of [people] coming to [the capital] to watch the Games.' The whole scheme, it is hoped, will finish by 2020.
Madelin and his acolytes will only then finally be able to put their feet up.
IN THE BEAR PIT: MADELIN PUTS HIS CASE TO PLANNERS
'Can you imagine not having to buy Time Out magazine again? You just turn up at King's Cross'
'Our plans are urban - not suburban. It's very much going to be part of London, as opposed to a part of Camden'
'We've already had 300 inquiries from potential occupiers abroad'
'We don't want to go denser, we want it to be somewhere where people want to be'
'[The planning committee's] job is harder than mine, but I'm sure it's as rewarding'
'I've often been asked to sum up King's Cross in a single soundbite. Opportunity'
'We are already designing a cutting edge design - we will be the most sustainable programme in London'