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CABE lukewarm over proposed King's Cross improvements

CABE has offered only limited support, with some major caveats, to John McAslan's plans for the redesign of King's Cross station in central London.

The design watchdog has issued a list of concerns about the scheme and insists that it needs more work before it goes ahead.

While insisting that McAslan is the man for the job, the criticism is at times stinging. Overall, it says, the scheme needs more work - and support from government - to achieve its full potential and reach the highest standards of design and urban planning

CABE's comments come in response to a planning application to redesign the station, which is expected next spring.

The CABE statement says: 'We strongly support the aims of this project to accommodate increased rail travel and passenger numbers, to provide better links between tube and rail stations, and to improve the user experience of King's Cross station.'

However, it goes on: 'We find it disappointing that even after massive investment, wayfinding and interchange connections will be indirect and dependent on signage.

'At worst there may be ambiguity or confusion about entrances and exits, convoluted interconnections between underground and trains, and the surreal prospect of passengers exiting the station complex but coming back in to it to reach the Tube.'

The removal of the Southern Concourse building to reveal the facade of the Grade I-listed station building, and the provision of a new Western Concourse entrance are strongly supported, but CABE insisted that further thought is needed to make this work.

The watchdog says: 'We do not think that an appropriate entrance 'sign' has been achieved by the Western Concourse proposal. The entrance needs a fresh approach, possibly working with a consortium of architects, lighting consultants, artists and graphic designers, to make it look and feel like the obvious entry point.

'If the entrance is not immediately apparent, passengers will get confused and backlogging will occur- we hope that further attention can be given to the entrance/exit strategy and the way in which the historical King's Cross frontage will be 'read'.'

by Ed Dorrell

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