WSP design for reconfigured station entrance dubbed ‘antisocial behaviour’ risk
Key design elements of Transport for London’s plans to revamp Old Street Station are poorly thought-out and inappropriate, according to one of the intersection’s host boroughs.
The mayoral transport body has been working on ways to upgrade the 1960s station and its surrounding public realm for more than a decade, and plans to turn its current traffic island location, known locally as “Silicon Roundabout”, into a more pedestrian-friendly peninsula layout.
The scheme also involves the creation of new entrances to the station, drawn up as part of a design-and-build contract for the work handed to Morgan Sindall and WSP in 2017, and the station’s new main entrance is at the forefront of concerns from Hackney council.
The borough’s public realm director Aled Richards is urging members of the authority’s planning committee to formally object to the Old Street proposals at their meeting tonight, with a raked seating area designed to be directly above the new station entrance cited as a principal concern.
“The management of the seating area above the proposed station entrance has not been considered properly and the seating area is likely to allow anti-social behaviour,” Richards said in a report to the meeting.
He added that the plans for public seating were also “inappropriate in an area with low air quality” and would also limit the “visual prominence of the main station entrance when viewed from the northeast”.
Richards’ report said that while the public realm and landscaping proposals were an enhancement over the existing public realm, the proposals were “a missed opportunity to achieve a really high-quality public space”.
Richards added that there were also concerns that the reconfigured road layout around Old Street Roundabout could disadvantage Hackney businesses and residents more than those of neighbouring Islington.
“The wider highway works would remove an existing subway entrance from Hackney that provides access to the Old Street Underground Station, and would increase the width of the roadway from four lanes to six, thereby decreasing the accessibility of the station and increasing the community-severance impact of the road,” he said.
“The reduced accessibility of the station from the northeast is likely to have a detrimental economic impact on the businesses within Hackney as a result of increased journey times and decreased convenience. These detrimental impacts are considered to outweigh the benefits derived from improved pedestrian clarity.”
Last year Islington council – which hosts most of the Old Street Roundabout area – held an ideas competition for enhancing the reconfigured space, after the station and road upgrades are complete, in conjunction with TfL and Hackney.
It picked four teams as winners, with the successful entries led by EPR Architects, Nicholas Hare Architects, Gpad London and Perkins & Will parent company Dar Group.
Announcing the winners, the borough said a separate, formal tender process would take place to develop “feasible, affordable designs for the ‘iconic gateway’ to complement the wider highway transformation works”.
Documents supporting the current Morgan Sindall and WSP proposals drawn up for TfL indicate that a wider reconfiguration of the Old Street area could be some way off. They say that the roundabout’s current “landmark” illuminated hoarding is contracted to be in place until 2025.
The structure, operated by JC Decaux rests on a plinth originally installed on the site to accommodate a flyover.
Hackney council’s planning committee meets at 6.30pm tonight. Its decision on Old Street will be reported to Islington, which has yet to set a target date for determining the new main entrance for Old Street.