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Camden News - by RICHARD OSLEY
Published: 9 April 2009
Artist's impression of how the new Lighthouse building on Gray's Inn Road in King's Cross could look
Artist’s impression of how the new Lighthouse building on Gray’s Inn Road in King’s Cross could look
‘Hunchback’ Lighthouse gets go-ahead

‘Extremely ugly’ stepped roof plans for iconic structure are criticised at meeting

A NEW look for the iconic Lighthouse building in King’s Cross could end up resembling a “hunchback armadillo”, a planning meeting was told.
Camden’s former planning chairman Councillor Brian Woodrow, who still sits on the development control committee, said on Thursday that an overhaul of the Victorian structure on Gray’s Inn Road would fit better in Paris, rather than central London.
The Lighthouse point looking out over King’s Cross station will stay where it is – but under the scheme a stepped roof will be constructed behind it.
Cllr Woodrow said: “My strong reservation is about the roof. I think it is like a hunchback armadillo, the way it staggers up. It is like a French building which might be appropriate in France, but not here.”
He asked for the council and applicants to be given more time to examine potential revisions. But the developers behind the project said they did not want to go back to the drawing board again and legal advisers warned the panel of councillors that a decision had to be made on the night.
Lib Dem councillor Flick Rea told the committee’s advisers: “Are you saying that all the years I’ve been doing something illegal? Come on, of course we can do this. You can’t bully the committee into saying this is it or it’s nothing.”
She said the back of the design was “extremely ugly” but added that she was “happy to see it preserved”.
Planning officials said possible revisions to the roof had already been discussed and were not considered a way forward. Five councillors voted in favour of the scheme. Two abstained from the decision.
Architects insist their plan is the only way the popular but dilapidated building, which has been empty for two decades, will be saved. The power room will be located at the back of the building because the underground tracks close to the surface prevent digging out a
bigger basement.
David Whittington, from the London Planning Practice, said: “At the present time, the building is an eyesore and casts a negative presence over the King’s Cross. These proposals represent the only deliverable proposals for the site to have emerged in the past 20 years.”
He said the only way to make the refurbishment economically viable was to provide space for shops and offices.
The council’s planning department was criticised for not taking more notice of the King’s Cross Conservation Area Advisory Committee, which claims it was not properly consulted over the changes and was only made aware of the application at the last moment.
Ernest James, the committee’s chairman, said: “We weren’t able to comment at the proper time because we weren’t consulted. Elephantine is one of the kindest remarks that have been said about the roof.”
But Lib Dem councillor Russell Eagling said: “This is a fantastic way of saving a very important building.”

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