Euston is a long way from the majestic Victorian railway station it once was. Passengers would make their way through a network of stately Victorian streets to enter under the Euston Arch, a Greek Revival propylaeum that was among the grandest monuments of nineteenth century London. Massive change was wrought in 1961, when the Arch was demolished and the station extended southwards in a modernist style, in moves which also radically altered the surrounding street scapes and layout. The iconic Arch was broken up and bits dumped into the Thames. Now, over 50 years later, Euston stands on the cusp of another monumental change.
Earlier this month, I joined my colleagues from the London Assembly’s Planning Committee, which I chair, on a site visit to the Euston Opportunity Area. With local councillors and borough officers, property owners, and Greater London Authority planners, we looked at an area on about to undergo radical change.
Euston is the planned terminus of HS2, a major rail infrastructure project which will slash travel times between London and major Midlands and northern cities like Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, and Leeds. HS2 is shrouded in controversy along the near entirity of its route, and there are those such as myself who are concerned that the ‘Nottingham’ and ‘Sheffield’ stations are not in the city centres. Despite the concerns, ranging from mild misgivings to outright opposition, the project has support of all three main political parties and is likely to break ground in 2018.
In Euston, HS2 means major change. The station itself will need to expand in size, either vertically or horizontally, to accomodate high-speed trains in addition to current traffic. This new station will also have new track leading to it, requiring demolition of much of the neighbourhood to the north/northwest of the station. The area will lose hundreds of homes, at least 20 businesses, listed buildings and open spaces, and the historic Leslie Green underground station building.
But with such change comes opportunity. Euston will now be even more connected, and even more of a centre for business and higher education. The Greater London Authority is working with Camden council to develop a Euston Area Plan to ensure that, if HS2 goes ahead, Euston “get[s] the best possible results for local people and businesses and to make the most of any potential benefits a new station and rail link could present.” This means the homes, jobs, and open spaces affected by HS2 must be replaced with more and better ones, with local people in mind.
What kind of new homes will come? Will there be space for local people, and will they be able to afford to live here? What kind of jobs? Will there be sufficient play space? Will the developments meet standards for density, and will they be environmentally friendly?
The planning committee’s site visit to Euston was only one step in our continuing monitoring to make sure that the answers to these questions are the right ones, for the local community and for London.
If you would like to comment on Euston or the Euston Area Plan, please write to Nicky Gavron, Chair, Planning Committee, London Assembly, The Queen’s Walk, London, SE1 2AA.