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Aga Khan centre in King's Cross Railway Lands talks - 2010-06-03

Thursday, 2010, June 3

AN Islamic centre bankrolled by one of the world’s richest men has become the latest potential tenant to show interest in taking up some of the empty space at the King’s Cross Railway Lands development.

The Aga Khan, the hereditary leader of a branch of Muslim worshippers, funds a university and cultural centre based on the Euston Road.

Known for being a world leader in racehorse breeding, his Aga Khan Foundation group are locked in talks with the owners of the 67-acre site. Developers King’s Cross Central Partnership have recently been accused of offering space to anyone who could stump up the cash – and not on their worth to the area as a whole.

A source said discussions are ongoing, but just last week the Diocese of London confirmed they had looked at building a Christian mission centre but got cold feet because of costs rising to £40million.

Critics claim the final make-up of the site could be a hotch-potch of businesses able to pay the required cash, not a holistically planned and carefully thought out new town for the borough.

Co-chairman of the King’s Cross Railway Lands group, Michael Edwards, said the latest news demonstrates that Camden Council made a serious error handing the developers planning permission for the entire site, and allowing them to fill the gaps in later.

He said: “We campaigned for a much more community-based plan than what we have got.

“They should not have given permission for the whole site at once. We said economic conditions and social needs may change and that they should have allowed permission for phase one and then they could have had space to reconsider. We’d be in a much better position. Instead they have given that power away.”

Mr Edwards said that as the developers have not got the commercial interest they want, they are simply chasing the biggest payers who could build there.

A spokesman for the King’s Cross Central Partnership said that planning laws mean the Railway Lands group’s fears are unfounded as all applications are still required to go through the usual planning routes.

The spokesman added: “We are talking to a number of very exciting organisations, large and small, about a move to King’s Cross Central. We are not in a position to announce any new deals yet but it’s fair to say that a number of our discussions are at a very advanced stage.”

A spokesman for the Aga Khan’s foundation said: “The Aga Khan Foundation, The Aga Khan University and The Institute of Ismaili Studies have significant existing operations in London, which are currently located at short leasehold premises in one building in the Borough of Camden.

“There is an ongoing exercise to develop a long-term premises strategy for these existing academic, international development and cultural activities and their future growth. In this context we have had discussions with the developers of King’s Cross Central, which have not yet been concluded.”

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