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Hopes high for Heatherwick's King’s Cross shopping scheme

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Heatherwick Studios looks likely to get the go-ahead for plans to convert the former coal drop buildings at King’s Cross into shops and restaurants this week

The proposals, which feature a ’kissing’ link bridge between the two Grade II-listed existing buildings, have been recommended for approval by Camden planners ahead of the borough’s development control committee meeting on Thursday (17 December).

Backed by developer Argent as part of the King’s Cross Development Partnership (KCDP), the 10,000m² retail scheme, aims to ‘secure the long-term future of the historic [structures] built in the 1850s to receive freight arriving from the north of England’.

According to the KCDP, ‘the cobbled streets and Victorian brick arches will house quirky boutiques, restaurants, galleries, music venues and bars’ and there will be ‘shops and cafés spilling out onto the streets and public spaces’.

Original plans for the site next to Central Saint Martins were drawn up by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands.

Proposed design for Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio

Proposed design for Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studio

Source: Forbes Massie

Coal Drops - outlined in red on the King's Cross aerial view

Coal Drops - outlined in red on the King’s Cross aerial view

Coal Drops - outlined in red on the King’s Cross aerial view

Extracts from Historic England’s advice on the plans

’The design approach, as we understand, it is to provide a structure at roof level that bridges the yard between the Eastern and Western Coal Drops buildings. The design is based around the concept of ‘peeling away’ the courtyard roof structures upwards and inwards until they meet above the courtyard between the two buildings. The new curved roof will be covered in slate to match the existing and retained roofs, so that both appear as a seamless whole. A pair of lightweight and sculpted cantilevered slabs provide the floor and soffit at eaves level across the yard, above which glazing rises to the new ‘peeled away’ roof structures to form the interior space of the extension, which includes a large single retail space and circulation core. The outward facing roof slopes of both buildings will remain unchanged. Where their removal is necessary, existing Victorian roof trusses will be re-used in the burnt out section of the building in a way in which they can be viewed and appreciated. The existing viaducts to both buildings will be retained in full, apart from the northern part of the Eastern Coal Drops Viaduct, which currently sits atop a working sewer and needs to be reduced in width here to allow for sewer maintenance. A simple lightweight bridge structure will connect the east and west viaducts across the middle of the courtyard. New staircases will be provided within the viaduct of the Western Coal Drops to provide access from the ground to the upper levels.

’The NPPF sets out a presumption in favour of sustainable development, which includes conserving heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance. In our view, the principle of the proposed design approach conserves the heritage assets in a manner appropriate to their significance. The current proposals safeguard the most significant elements of the listed buildings and its surroundings, and focus new development on the less significant northern part of the site, which includes the fire damaged shell of the Eastern Coal Drops.

’The ‘less than substantial’ harm to the listed building and surrounding conservation area caused by the new extension has to be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposal, one of which includes securing the optimum viable use for the retained and restored historic buildings. In our view, the current proposals have the potential to meet this test, and we look forward to working together closely with the design team and Camden Council to ensure the highest quality proposals for this significant site.’

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