proposal called for more space for affordable housing and light industry, but it was never approved.
The 1987 borough plan of Camden, the local authority under whose jurisdictio most of the area falls, also incorporated social aims but remained vague on the quantities, leaving them open to negotiation with future developers. The Borough of Camden (BC) further specified its standpoint on the King's Cross railway lands in a community planning brief (CPB), which it adopted in June 1988. As in the borough plan, conditions and wishes were stated, but the initiative was left to the developers. Camden acknowledged that the CPB
is deliberately much more specific on the community requirements than on the quantity of commercial activities the Council would be prepared to accept. A strong incentive is thereby provided for the developer to come forward with a scheme which respects the industrial heritage of the site, which encourages diversity and which strikes a proper balance between the interests of strategic and local, community and commerce. (Borough of Camden, 1988, p. 1)
A similar integration of interests and perspectives was also advocated by the strategic planning advice published in October 1988 by the metropolitan consultative body called the London Planning Advisory Committee (LPAC), and - albeit in a rather vague way—also by the strategic guidance for London, which was published by the central government in July 1989. The main thrust of the central government document was towards reinforcement of the position of London as an international financial centre.
The actual redevelopment process of the railway lands, or what later came to be known as the King's Cross saga, took off in 1987. At that time, British Rail (BR), the main transport operator and landowner in the area, invited four developers to submit bids for the area. The location at King's Cross of an international high-speed train terminal was—officially—not an issue at this point. Only later, and after leaks to the press, did BR admit that it intended to seek authorization to build an international station at King's Cross, overturning its own conclusions drawn three years earlier. Two developers were selected in a first round, and projects were shown publicly in January 1988, but the financial aspects and quantities were not disclosed. In June (1988) it was announced that the plan of the London Regeneration Consortium (LRC, a partnership of the property developers Rosehaugh Stanhope and the National Freight Corporation, a key minority landowner in the area), designed by Norman Foster, was the winner. The deal, as was to emerge later, entailed a lump-sum payment of £400 million to BR immediately, plus 70% of future profits.
In November 1988 BR sent a King's Cross Railways Bill to parliament requesting the necessary authorization, or 'powers', to undertake the infrastructure works, which included an underground high-speed international terminal at King's Cross. In April 1989, BR submitted an outline planning application (OPA) to the Borough of Camden, requesting planning permission for the redevelopment of land. With these two submissions, the stage was set for negotiations that were expected to take place within a relatively short period. In reality, only now (after almost 10 years) has a solution come within reach. Two periods characterized by radically different approaches can be distinguished in the process: a first round, from 1987 to 1992; and a second round, starting in 1994. In between, 1993 was a year when everything, and nothing, seemed possible.
In the first phase of negotiations (1987-1992), the roles of the most important actors were quite diverse. The Borough of Camden and the LRC had been negotiating successive modifications of the planning application. The two actors held quite different visions, as the different philosophy of the community planning brief and the LRC plan show. But both needed resources, either legal or financial, that the other actor had. Furthermore, both seemed willing to give up something. The Borough was willing to concede on some points in order to avoid a public inquiry and risk losing its say. The developers were willing to give in to speed up the process and possibly build a positive image. On the other side were the local groups. As time went by, they were progressively identified with an umbrella organization called the King's Cross Railway Lands Group (KXRLG). They made a concerted effort (negated by the LRC and not obstructed by Camden) to rally support for alternative plans. In the end, everything depended on the outcome of the debate in parliament (where every actor involved had its own lobby) on British Rail's King's Cross Bill.
The OPA presented by the LRC in April 1989 was the biggest one ever submitted in the UK (44 boxes and 616 kg of documents!). A decision from Camden was expected at the beginning of 1990, as soon as the Bill had passed through parliament. However, the cycle of examinations, amendments, and resubmissions proved endless. The substance of the negotiations did not vary much. Each time, Camden made amendments to the plan to scale up the social and environmental aspects. And each time the LRC formally agreed, but only just. To each new application, the municipality responded by making new requirements. A solution soon proved difficult. Because of its contract with BR, LRC could not give up too much, if any, of its profit-generating uses. This applied most to the offices, which constituted more than 70% of the functional programme. Camden, for its part, could afford to bide its time until the fate of BR's parliamentary Bill became known.
At the same time, the KXRLG formulated its own proposals, with the participation of the local population. Basically, they entailed taking on and perfecting the social and environmental programme of the Community Planning Brief but also explicitly arguing for a lower office content. The local groups allied themselves initially with a local 'enlightened' developer supported by a King's Cross Team (KXT) of professionals. But later the group decided to pursue the cause on its own. The result was two distinct alternative proposals: a more 'radical' one (the KXRLG's) and a more 'realistic' one (the KXT's). The former was formalized in an OPA in December 1991. The main problem for the local groups was how to break the basic assumption on which the LRC's proposals were built. The LRC contended that high-profit-generating uses were needed to compensate for the high costs of putting in the infrastructure, which the government was not prepared to finance. To break this logic, the local group advocated either a less expensive above-ground terminal at St Pancras or—better yet—an alternative terminal at Stratford in East London, and possibly (and more provocatively) a different political context in which to consider public investment in infrastructure.
The complicated, multilateral dispute was protracted, and showed few significant shifts. That changed in July 1992, when the Borough declared its intention to grant, under certain conditions, planning permission to the LRC proposal. The conclusion drawn by Camden's officials who were evaluating the development options epitomizes the dilemma created by the institutional context. Given the cost of the transformation—as Camden's officials argued—any substantial reduction in the amount of office space would jeopardize its feasibility, with the result of putting at risk the entire regeneration policy for the area (Borough of Camden, 1992). Property and transport development have been interdependent at King's Cross. These two interests were locked into a spiral of ever greater costs and profits that left very little room for programme alternatives. The basic assumption was so compelling that all other considerations were dwarfed. The perceived need for office space overshadowed the possibility that the complications created by the office bias could cause the entire operation to collapse. Ironically, this extreme scenario was precisely the one that came to pass.
The year 1993 was packed with events on different fronts. Completely new transformation prospects emerged. Let us review what happened from the point where we left off in the overview of the first round: the conditional intention to grant planning permission by Camden's officials. The most important condition set by the Borough was the approval of BR's Bill, which was still under discussion in parliament. This was a crucial point. The localization at King's Cross of an underground high-speed international terminal was the pivot of the whole LRC initiative. However, the choice of King's Cross became increasingly controversial. In February 1993, Union Railways (UR, the independent company set up in 1992 by BR to develop the high-speed link to the continent) published a study in which the underground terminal hypothesis was abandoned. Instead, UR proposed using the existing terminal at St Pancras. The conclusion drawn in this study was that the St Pancras option would be less complex and less costly to build, while being more attractive in environmental, operational, business and safety terms. The study also pointed out the opportunity to realize a second station in Stratford. (Ironically, both conclusions came close to what had been long contended by the local community groups!) In January 1994, following further evaluations, the government also declared its preference for St Pancras. In addition, the government announced its intention to launch a competition to attract private capital for the whole high-speed link, including the terminal. A definitive solution was not yet in sight (when, if ever, would private capital be available?). But the option of an underground terminal was abandoned, implying that the entire LRC plan had to go back to the drawing board. A worse signal, however, came from the property market, as the boom had turned to bust. The crisis also struck Rosehaugh Stanhope, the property developers associated in the LRC, shaking the financial credibility of the operation to its very roots.
The dramatic changes in context were underscored by the Draft Advice on Strategic Planning Guidance for London, published in June 1993 by LPAC. In this document, LPAC contended that development in King's Cross above 140 000-185 000 m2 (a third of what was being proposed by LRC!) would not accord with strategic planning objectives, while even that amount would depend on all the planned infrastructure being in place and in any case would not be feasible until after the year 2000. Furthermore, LPAC believed that the current situation opened up opportunities for temporary uses and for a permanent mixed use development (LPAC, 1993, pp. 30-31). The Borough of Camden must have reached similar conclusions; by
spring, it had commissioned the KXRLG to produce an 'Interim Uses Initiative' (see the resulting plan in Figure 9.5).
In the course of 1994 events followed each other quickly, partly confirming and partly complicating the emerging picture:
• In April, the LRC withdrew its planning application and sued BR for breaking the contract.
• In August, a shortlist of four private consortia were invited by the government to submit offers for the construction and operation of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL), including railway station areas. The condition of self-financing was confirmed, but to partially bypass this limitation the idea emerged to use the line for express commuter trains from Kent too, as this would entitle it to subsidies.
• In November UR presented a CTRL Bill to parliament; at that point, the underground option for the terminal was abandoned, and the proposal to use St Pancras was submitted.
• Also in November the Borough of Camden approved and published a new community planning brief (November 1994) registering the changes in context. In the same month, the Borough launched CrossMillennia, a bid for a share of the national lottery funds that the government will make available for special projects to celebrate the new millennium. It envisaged at King's Cross, next to the international terminal, the development of an events hall in a telecommunication and media complex, to be built in partnership with British Telecom and the London film industry (Figure 9.6). The bid proved unsuccessful.
• In the course of the same year, the KXRLG reviewed its planning application, contested the disruptive idea of allowing Kent commuters into St Pancras, and tried with limited success to get landowners interested in the Interim Uses Initiative.
To many, the situation at this time would have appeared hopeless. However, in the ensuing months a new framework for the development of the area had been gradually taking shape, as distinct processes have been recomposed with each other. Two chains of events are important here. A first one was triggered by an initiative of the Borough of Camden. In September 1995, after a first unsuccessful attempt, neighbouring Camden and Islington Boroughs—together with the local community, the voluntary sector, and private sector participation (P&O developments, National Freight Corporation, Railtrack*, and Union Railways)—made a second bid to the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB), the new central government programme substituting all previous urban initiatives. The bid asked for £37.5 million from the government, to be more than matched by investment from the private sector and the local public sector. The bid covered the railway lands and their surroundings, with a surface of approximately 3 square miles (780 ha) (Figure 9.4). This time it was successful: £37.5 million was to be granted in seven years, matched by £43.6 million in local public funds (mostly local authority and housing association) and £171.4 million in private investment, complementing the impact of an expected £2 billion CTRL investment in St Pancras. In March 1996 the King's Cross Partnership (KCP) was launched to coordinate and provide the strategic framework for the seven-year regeneration initiative. At the same time it was supposed to counter the potential marginalization of the local population. The initial focus of its work has been on education, training, and advice, and on studies that will eventually feed into a strategic framework for the regeneration of the area, to be ready by mid-1998. The hope is that by the end of 2003, a 'new
quarter' could be completed. However, coordination with the railway works—also scheduled for the same period (see below)—remains a major problem, as up to 2003 the area will essentially be a gigantic construction site. It remains to be seen whether the KCP will develop into a genuine partnership. All the relevant actors participate in it, but the power is very unevenly distributed among them. Its main appeal, besides a budget that is only relatively significant, may well be its ability to build consensus through persuasion.
In King's Cross, most agree that the critical factor in the decision of government in favour of the King's Cross regeneration bid was in all likelihood the impending decision on the CTRL. In fact—and this is the second important chain of events—throughout 1995 and 1996 the CTRL Bill had been passing through parliament. King's Cross boroughs and local groups obtained only minor amendments, but in the process a second station at Stratford was secured, in connection with a link with the West Coast main line bypassing St Pancras. Royal assent was finally awarded to the Bill, and it became an Act in December 1996. Eight years (!) after the first King's Cross Bill was presented by BR to parliament, there was finally legal certainty on the development of the transport infrastructure. The CTRL Act authorized the construction and operation of the new railway, including powers of compulsory purchase and outline planning permission for the railway and its structures. Local council approvals were needed only on details. However, the Act made no provisions for the development of the King's Cross railway
* Railtrack was the new company that in 1994, as BR was privatized, took over the ownership and management of all track, signalling, infrastructure, buildings, and operationl land. However, in the light of the special situation created at King's Cross by the CTRL, Railtrack's competences were in this case limited to the King's Cross station building.
KING'S CROSS RAILWAY LANDS 197 Table 9.1 King's Cross railway lands: summary of the main phases
Phase 1: rise and fall of a property-led approach, 1987-1992
1987 BR invites four property developers to submit bids for the area
June 1988 The London Regeneration Consortium wins the contest;
the Borough of Camden adopts the Community Planning Brief
November 1988 British Rail sends the King's Cross Railways Bill to parliament, including an application for an underground HST terminal
April 1989 The London Regeneration Consortium submits an Outline
Planning Application to the Borough of Camden
Negotiations and debate; property slump begins
December 1991 The King's Cross Railway Lands Group submits an alternative planning application
Negotiations and debate continue; property slump worsens
Phase 2: withdrawals and attempts at redefining the issue, 1993-1995
February 1993 Union Railways suggests the alternative use of existing
St Pancras for the HST terminal
December 1993 The Interim Uses Initiative is published; the reception of the landowners is cold
January 1994 The central government also declares its preference for
April 1994 The London Regeneration Consortium withdraws its planning application
August 1994 A shortlist of four private consortia are invited by central government to submit offers for the construction and operation of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL)
November 1994 Union Railways sends the CTRL Bill to parliament;
the Borough of Camden publishes a new Community Planning Brief and launches the (unsuccessful) CrossMillennia bid for national lottery funds
September 1995 Camden and Islington Boroughs, together with private and community interests, make a bid to the Single Regeneration Budget (SRB)
Debate in Camden and in parliament Phase 3: towards parallel transport- and regeneration-led approaches, 1996-1997
December 1996 In the course of 1997
London and Continental wins the competition to build and operate the CTRL
Following success of the SRB bid, the King's Cross Partnership is launched
Royal assent is granted to the CTRL Bill
Planning applications for the CTRL works are processed; studies commissioned by the King's Cross Partnership are undertaken
Phase 4: implementation, 1998-2003?
1998-2003 London and Continental expects to begin construction of the CTRL in 1998 and terminate in 2003
mid-1998 to end of 2003 The King's Cross Partnership hopes to publish a strategic framework for the regeneration of the area by mid-1998, and that a 'new quarter' will be completed by the end of 2003
lands other than those required for the construction of the CTRL and associated works. Approval for any future land development proposals would be sought from the London boroughs of Camden and neighbouring Islington under normal planning procedures. The unitary development plan (UDP) of Camden was here to provide the statutory framework, alongside the UDP of Islington, the strategic guidance for London, and other central government documents. Camden's UDP was then under discussion. However, it already appeared that the King's Cross railway lands were to be allowed particular flexibility. Also, on the Islington side there was readiness to cooperate beyond the letter of the plan.
During examination of the CTRL Bill in February 1996 it was announced that London and Continental (L&C, a consortium supported by Richard Branson of Virgin, among others) had won the competition to undertake the works and operate the line. Costs were estimated at £3 billion. Partially countering a previous declaration, the government stated that it would finance half the amount, while the rest would have to be raised on the market. Construction was expected to begin in 1998, and the line and stations should be opened in 2003. L&C Stations & Property, a subsidiary of L&C, will manage the acquisition of the land required for the CTRL and the disposal of surplus land, and manage all the group's property assets including stations. Working in close cooperation with the local authorities, other landowners and development agencies it will unlock the regeneration benefits of the CTRL and its new stations, particularly around Stratford, the Thames Gateway and St Pancras. (Cited from London & Continental brochure)
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