Sort it! Residents say new school should come before building 700 homes on Royal Mail site

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by PETER GRUNER

Published: 7 February, 2013

A PLAN to “squeeze” more than 700 homes on the five-hectare Mount Pleasant Sorting Office site in King’s Cross has led to fears that a perfect site for a new secondary school is being missed.

The site was once home to the largest postal sorting office in the world, but now consists of semi-derelict offices and a large car park. Royal Mail are looking to earn an estimated £100million on the land with planning applications for a new development expected to be filed next month and work on the site – a former 19th-century prison called Coldbath Fields – beginning as early as next year

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Royal Mail’s current sorting operation will continue at Mount Pleasant although it has now been considerably scaled down due to new technology.
A Mount Pleasant Residents Forum has been formed to study the impact of the proposals that straddle the boroughs of Camden and Islington.

Holborn and Covent Garden councillor Sue Vincent says unanswered calls for a school south of Euston Road should be listened to. “We believe the Mount Pleasant site would be the most appropriate for a school,” she said. “We hope to discuss with the Royal Mail how it can be delivered. For example it might be possible to do a land swap. Build the school at Mount Pleasant and some of the homes could go at nearby Wren Street which is also owned by Royal Mail.” [Correction: the Wren Street site is wholly owned by LB Camden]

Wren Street Sign300pxThe Forum held their first meeting last month and many residents felt that the scheme was “too high and too dense” with, according to some, “little in the way of redeeming architectural features”.

The proposed housing scheme will include two tall buildings. One of those, of between 12 and 15 storeys, would be close to Phoenix Place and a group of Georgian homes. The other, a nine-storey building, would be the same height as the adjacent Holiday Inn hotel in Calthorpe Street.

Frances Hanlon, who lives nearby, said: “The current high-density scheme reminds me of a prison which, of course, was what the site once was. 
“They are trying to squeeze too many  homes into one space and we still don’t know how many flats will be affordable or socially rented. My own home will be overlooked by one tall building, which is completely unnecessary. Many people in Camden would have liked a new secondary school on the site. But there’s no chance of that. A new school does not earn ­money for developers.”

Vaughan Grylls, chairman of Wilmington Square Society, said his members would like to see the scheme scaled back. “They are obviously trying to cram as many homes on to the site as they can,” he added. “But we would like to see a decent community space at the centre of the development.”

Royal Mail spokeswoman Sally Hopkins said: “Royal Mail is drawing up a residentially led, mixed-used planning application for the Mount Pleasant site. Royal Mail is continuing to meet with local residents, amenity groups and other stakeholders. Whilst the exact number of homes and the heights of individual buildings are still to be finalised, the application will include new homes, new office space, shops and other commercial space and significant new public open space. This work will go hand in hand with Royal Mail’s ongoing substantial investment into creating modern facilities on the site.”

This article was originally published by the CNJ 7th Feb 2012

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