Comments on Landowners’ Preferred Euston Stations Masterplan dated December 2017
BCAAC has just gained access to redacted copies of a Masterplan developed by Wilkinson Eyre in tandem with the plan to rebuild and extend the western side of Euston Station to accommodate HS2 trains. It is also intended eventually to rebuild the eastern side of Euston Station.
Euston Square Gardens
The Masterplan shows the clear intention to construct very large buildings actually on top of the gardens of Euston Square, where there are now trees and grass.
This would be a travesty and a tragically short-sighted act.
For travellers arriving at Euston, the square is a wonderful introduction to Bloomsbury and beyond, announcing an area characterised by green and treed squares. Although its gardens now only survive on the north side of Euston Road, Euston Square is rightly designated as part of the Bloomsbury Conservation Area. It is bordered on the east, south and west by buildings of moderate height, most of which are listed. Its open and green aspect forms a welcome break in the almost- continuous wall of buildings bordering Euston Road elsewhere. While the railway termini at St. Pancras and Kings Cross have wonderful listed station buildings, only Euston station is fronted by a historic square open to all to walk through or simply to relax in.
The amenity of the square would be drastically reduced by the introduction of the proposed tall buildings onto it. Even if it were possible to make up for lost areas by creating additional open space directly to the north (something we doubt), the overlooking, shade and wind caused by the tall buildings around would render this reconfigured square a very much less attractive space to be in. The loss of amenity would be in addition to the complete destruction of St James’s Gardens, a landmark act of vandalism that has already taken place, leaving the immediate surroundings of the station greatly diminished in terms of green open space.
The London Squares Act of 1931 protects Euston Square gardens and many others on the basis of the amenity they provide to city-dwellers – open space, sunshine and better quality air due to the presence of large trees. The offer indicated in the Masterplan to rebuild the Euston Arch would not come close to compensating for the loss of so much of Euston Square gardens, on top of the obliteration of St James’s Gardens.
The legal protection given by Conservation Area designation
The test for any development within any conservation area is whether it ‘preserves or enhances’. This proposal is highly damaging to the Bloomsbury Conservation Area for the following reasons:
1 The setting of the listed buildings around the square would be damaged beyond recognition. Instead of facing a square with trees and grass, many of them would be facing directly onto massive and tall new buildings.
2 The historic boundary of the square, dating from c.1820, would disappear completely.
3 The greatly over-scaled height and bulk of the proposed buildings would be completely out of character with the Conservation Area. They would impact massively not only on their immediate surroundings but would also tower over the central and southern parts of the Conservation Area, typified by low-rise terraces built as housing.
To allow any building on a Bloomsbury square – let alone buildings of such height and mass – is to lose forever a valuable and unique public asset. To do so for the sake of the short-term funding for HS2, a project of dubious country-wide benefit and virtually none at all to the immediate area, in any case is incomprehensible. It would be seen by future generations as unspeakably stupid, barbaric and ignorant of any sense of civic values.