Posts Tagged Kings Cross

What price paradise?

One corner of Paradise is looking distinctly less heavenly at present.

The innovative green wall on the Children’s Centre at Islington’s Paradise Park is now brown, although I for one hope that it is not dead, only sleeping. Certainly the wide coverage of the wall’s woes – in comment if not greenery – should shame the designers into sorting it out.

One of the critics of the wall is Tim Newark (currently representing the Tax Payers’ Alliance) who damned it as experimenting with public money. As Mark Pack argues, opposing public sector innovation per se is a difficult position for the TPA to sustain, given their whole approach to public spending is itself innovative.

I do sometimes feel that the Tax Payers’ Alliance are the spiritual heirs to the Islington Public Libraries Rejection Association who delayed the introduction of public libraries to our borough by 50 years with arguments such as “Personally I have a strong objection to have even a penny rate taken out of my pocket by force in order to provide Mary Jane with novels, or her friends with newspapers.”

Of course it’s right to scrutinise public expenditure, especially at this time of recession. The excellent mySociety team have a site sharing Freedom of Information requests, and recently highlighted this gem, about Royal Mail expenditure on rubber bands. So the next time you see red rubber bands scattered on the street, do pick them up and re-use them; after all, you’ve helped pay for them. But is the baseline peddled by the Tax Payers’ Alliance in their regular media appearances (hattip to MarkReckons) that almost any public expenditure is bad, generating any light along with the heat?

If you value public services, rather than simply cost them, then surely it’s best to propose savings from a basis of knowledge. The public sector has rightly been criticised for spending a fortune on bringing in consultants for endless reviews and reorganisations – an expensive trend that started under Mrs Thatcher and has flourished even more under new Labour – when frontline staff can often spot the best ways to cut waste. So I think Nick Clegg’s ‘In the know’ initiative, free consultancy from real experts, is a brilliant idea. Although possibly one too dangerously experimental for the Tax Payers’ Alliance to stomach.

To be fair to Tim Newark, even he says the green wall was a “wonderful” idea. And whether the Paradise wall survives or not, the idea of green walls is still flourishing in Islington.

Sophie Talbot and the Kings Cross Community Projects trust have been promoting a new greenwall on Wharfdale Road for two years now. They are seeking private sponsorship; so even the TPA should be happy. You can support the project with a donation here.

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More news from KX Central

Property Week reports that advertising giants Ogilvy & Mather are possible tenants at Kings Cross Central.

The Kings Cross Environment blog has news of a competition for the future of the listed Victorian gasholders.

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Haikus at Kings Cross

The arts centre at Kings Place is sponsoring a haiku-writing contest for Londoners. Entries are flashed up on screen at Kings Cross station.

Islington haikus
Twitter your lines to take part
What a great idea!

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Kings Cross access demo – this Friday

I’ve blogged many times before about the Kings Cross access campaign – keeping easy access for Islington residents to and through the redeveloped Kings Cross.

Now this message comes from campaigner Sophie Talbot: “Network Rail will permanently close this entrance on Friday 24th April. At 1.30pm on that day we are inviting people to gather at that north-eastern entrance to witness the end of 150 years of access to and across the station at that point.”

See you there!

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Stabbing incident on the Cally

Last night I was hurrying along the Cally on the way to a school governor’s meeting when I saw two or three police cars pulled up, lights flashing, outside the petrol station near Cally Pool.

The word this morning is that three young people may have been stabbed, with one at least reported to be in a critical condition.

The state of the economy may have pushed knife crime out of the headlines, but it is clearly still an issue.

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Tolpuddle KX festival

Next month marks the 175th anniversary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

They were a group of farm workers in Dorset who in 1834 were sentenced to be deported to Australia for forming a trades union, an illegal act in those days. A massive demonstration in support of the men set off from Islington’s Copenhagen Fields to Parliament, and led to them being pardoned – a huge milestone in the history of trades unions and other campaigning organisations. The event is commemorated in the name of Tolpuddle Street, and by the mural at Edward Square.

And now there is to be a festival from 19-25 April, mirroring the annual event at Tolpuddle: more details of the Islington festival are here.

We have so many freedoms we take for granted (and others under attack) but we shouldn’t forget the struggles that won those freedoms for us.

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Kings Cross: a bridge too far?

Last week I brought GLA member Caroline Pidgeon to see the situation at Wharfdale Road.

At present there is a side entrance to Kings Cross station, greatly valued by local people and the hundreds of workers now based at Kings Place. That entrance will now close then the station is rebuilt.

The new glazed entrance at the bottom of York Way is looking good but will be ‘exit only’ when it comes into use. The only entrance will be on the St Pancras side. Under current plans, pedestrians from Islington will have to brave the canyon of York Way – a nightmare at present with the station scaffolding up – and the pollution of the Euston Road: or trek north to the rat run of Goods Way.

So we’re campaigning for a bridge, in line with the original Battlebridge Road, to preserve access to and through the new Kings Cross. Without that, the regenerated Kings Cross Central will be less open to Islington residents than ever, undermining all the supposed regeneration benefits to our community.

Caroline has tabled a question to Mayor Boris Johnson: Can you outline how TfL intends to progress the pre-feasibility study currently being carried out by Islington Council into a replacement pedestrian bridge between Wharfdale Road and St. Pancras Way at King’s Cross station?

We’ve had this reply: TfL has helped fund this pre-feasibility study and will consider Islington’s report and business case when it is received in April.

So watch this space!

Meanwhile another bridge at KX has fallen victim to the credit crunch (hat tip to Will Perrin). The glass bridge would have provided pedestrian access over the canal at the entrance to the Kings Cross central development.

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Law and Order UK

Just caught up with the first episode of the first episode of Law & Order UK. Fantastic.

All the best aspects of the US version – great acting, credible characters, insights into the life of the city as well as the workings of the law, and a page-turning story.

And it’s set in Islington – according to the famous titles at least. The only identifiable backdrop is Kings Cross station – despite airy references to N1 and N19, the street names are fictional.

Also some of the excellent cast, including Bill Paterson, and Freema Agyeman have Islington connections.

Whatever the locations, I still love it. SkyPlus is set for Mondays!

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Latest on Kings Cross access

Sophie Talbot on the Kings Cross Access campaign website has the latest news.

The signs are now up warning people that Network Rail will be closing the York Way entrance opposite Wharfdale Road. Although this has been part of their plans for many months, it’s only now that some people will realise it’s actually happening. And that might galvanise more support for the campaign.

Meanwhile GLA member Caroline Pidgeon has tabled a question to the Mayor:

“Can you outline how TfL intends to progress the pre-feasibility study currently being carried out by Islington Council into a replacement pedestrian bridge between Wharfdale Road and St. Pancras Way at King’s Cross station?”

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Olympic legacy: will it bring real regeneration?

There’s a certain amount of angst in the property world over the plans for the Olympic legacy.

The legacy vehicle – charged with securing new homes, jobs and opportunities once the Games are over – has been unveiled. Unlike previous agencies, such as the Docklands Development Corporation, the Olympic legacy body won’t have its own planning powers and won’t therefore have the final say in what happens on the sites.

Instead it looks like being a toothless quango, negotiating with the different boroughs involved. It would be more honest to have either a full-blown exectuive agency; or a partnership between the existing local authorities. There’s little point creating another quango, when it can’t actually get the job done. And it’s still not clear how or to whom it will be accountable.

Unsurprisingly some of the property developers would prefer an executive agency approach. No faffing around with councils wanting them to consult or fund community benefits then! There’s already concern that some of the so-called Olympic boroughs will get little or no lasting benefit.

But as Roger Madelin of Argent St George (developers of Kings Cross Central and Birmingham’s Brindley Place) says: ‘I may be in the minority on this issue but, even after a long and very expensive process at King’s Cross, I do believe there has to be some kind of accountable local democracy involved. I don’t think putting in planning powers across the whole thing and railroading the process through is good in the long run.’

It’s not just poverty that crushes communities – it’s a sense of total powerlessness in the face of major change, change that affects their area but in which they have absolutely no say. If regeneration is to mean anything, it must mean involving local people and their elected representatives.

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