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Row over plans for Institute of Physics building in King's Cross

PUBLISHED: 15:46 12 December 2014

View from community garden with proprosed building

View from community garden with proprosed building

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A world-renowned scholarly society set to move to Kings Cross faces a battle with residents over its "ugly" building design.

The Institute of Physics, which has bought six former flats and the former Lynes Plumbing Supply on the corner of Balfe Street and Caledonian Road, intends to build a one-and-a-half-storey extension as a for-hire corporate meeting space at the premises.

But residents living close by say that the extension would block light and overlook rooms in nearby houses as well as ruining the view from a community garden used by about 100 locals all year round.

They also say the plans would blight the current skyline of 19th-century terraces, protected under conservation guidelines.

Cabe Franklin, 41, who lives next door to the proposed development, said: “They’re going to build two storeys with glass windows that will be used for meetings throughout the day 20ft from our back bedroom window.

“They’re allowed to block about 20 per cent of our light and apparently they’re conveniently going to be blocking about 19.5 per cent of ours.

“They say they want to build a distinctive building but it all feels a bit Canary Wharf to just drop this in the middle of a conservation area.

“These are terraces that have been the same for well over 100 years.”

Sarah Ward, president of the community garden behind the building, said: “We’re worried about light levels because of the higher roof. Everybody feels like it’s not in keeping with the buildings around it.

“We don’t want to feel like the buildings are closing in around us, like what has happened down the road in Kings Cross.”

The buildings fall within the Keystone conservation area which is made up of rows of houses built between 1830 and 1850.

The conservation area guidelines set out by the council state that “extensions will only be allowed where a significant number already exist” and where they create a “more harmonious roof line.”

Cllr Paul Convery, who represents Caledonian Ward, said: “For what it’s worth I think the institute would be a fantastic arrival in the area – they’ve already got a relationship struck with our schools.

“But the design at the back of the building is big and pretty ugly.

“People in Balfe streets whose homes back on to it are the ones who are going to be affected.”

A spokesman for the institute said: “We’re working with Islington’s planning officers and looking forward to bringing additional value and resources to benefit Islington’s businesses, schools and local community when we move.”

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