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King’s Cross: Community And Colossal Opportunity Combined

November 9, 2007

The renewal of King’s Cross – St Pancras and all that surrounds it is long overdue, but it looks to be a spectacular project worth the wait. The final moves to achieve success in terms of the local community will however require those who should, to put their heads above the parapet so that everything comes together to make the best possible result. This project will ‘work’ for everyone as long as people really try to collaborate to get it right.

Having travelled on the bus past King’s Cross – St. Pancras on very many occasions, I can only say my heart lifted when, at last, evidence of its renaissance began to materialise.

Community links and challenges
It’s surely a unique and exciting challenge to put together a project as enormous and impactful as this. The project hits many buttons – strategic place, infrastructure, heritage, economic benefit; we could go on… King’s Cross is in anyone’s books a very spectacular and special piece of real estate.
Of course there’s still a possibility that King’s Cross will somehow miss on that vital community connection; but only if people on all sides of the equation let it. This is where civic and corporate leadership have such a critical part to play, right from day one.

Different from, say, Canary Wharf?
Given the common emphasis on transport hubs, there have been comparisons, but Canary Wharf is different. Just for a start, Canary Wharf is not at the heart of what’s to become the most important international ‘green’ hub connecting the UK and mainland Europe, and for another thing the Wharf is a glass and concrete creation with not too much reference to a long and glorious heritage.
King’s Cross is a genuine opportunity to build on a very high profile USP with enormous promise for all stakeholders.

Doubters and objectors
There are always people who oppose what’s happening. The financial and other costs of the debate with them may well be high, but in the end everyone has to be heard for progress to be made in a well-founded way. The line must be drawn somewhere, but the views of those with reservations are valuable because they help to pinpoint potential hazards further down that line.
But it’s up to everyone to make sure that in the end King’s Cross really works. This is a programme with serious commonality of interest between developers, the wider economic infrastructure and real people on whom the project impacts day by day.

Delivering success
Having seen examples elsewhere of exiting programmes based with various degrees of success in challenging locations, I’d say everyone, but everyone, involved has to ask, what more might I need to be doing to make King’s Cross fulfil its whole potential?
Of all the ‘Rules of Regeneration’, the first rule here must be: listen, seek to understand and where possible accommodate all stakeholders. And the second rule is, always remember someone has to be brave and take the lead, accountably and visibly.

Realistically forward-facing
This is not a time for pursuing plans regardless or for heads-in-the-sand-style denial of problems; but nor, most certainly, is it a time for standing back. King’s Cross is an opportunity which comes only very rarely…. Here we have a genuinely future-facing adventure which everyone in town can share and actually see taking shape.
I watch from my bus as things come together week by week and I wish all involved the very best.

A version of this article was published on the New Start blog of 8 November 2007.

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