Islington councillors have praised changes made to plans for a new-look Old Street roundabout as “possibly iconic.”
Earlier proposals, which had attracted criticism from Hackney Council as well as the Metropolitan Police, were thrown out.
The plans previously saw the roof of the new main entrance serving as a public seating terrace, an idea which was promptly dumped after the Met predicted this “would encourage people to congregate late at night and be used by persons engaged in low level crime and anti-social behaviour”.
The new entrance has now been comprehensively redesigned in line with a suggestion from Hackney Council that it feature a bio-diverse green roof which will be facing a new tree-lined area along the pavement approach at Old Street, named the ‘Promenade of Light’.
The chair of Islington’s planning committee, Cllr Martin Klute (Lab, St Peter’s) thanked council officers and TfL representatives present at the meeting for putting across what he considered to be a “hugely better scheme”, which had the possibility to be “iconic.”
Vice-chair Cllr Jenny Kay (Lab, Mildmay), said: “This wasn’t very beautiful when we first saw it, so we’d like to say thank you to all the people who worked to get it to this stage. It’s really improved.”
When pressed by councillors on why the new-look station would not have improved accessibility for disabled people, officers responded: “It’s a terrible shame, but when we looked at the costs associated with making the platforms accessible, it would have been a radically different situation.
“The costs associated with trying to get access to the platforms is a whole order of magnitude over and above the costs that this scheme involves.”
The changes to the roundabout, which will in effect become a peninsula, are being made as part of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy for Healthy Streets, and will seek to address a number of accidents involving collisions between pedestrians/ cyclists and vehicles in the vicinity.
Hackney Council had also raised its eyebrows over the reduced accessibility of the station from the northeast having a potentially detrimental economic impact on the businesses within the borough, but the wider roundabout and highway works were not part of last night’s decision.
Planning officers for Islington Council said: “The proposal is considered to be essential to support safer cycling and pedestrian access in the borough and facilitate a reduction in cycling/ pedestrian collisions with vehicles.
“The proposal is therefore regarded as a further step towards the wider improvements to the Old Street roundabout area, which would significantly improve cycling and pedestrian safety and the existing poor urban realm.
“Overall, the proposal is considered to be acceptable in terms of land use, design, heritage impacts, inclusive design, landscaping, neighbouring amenity, servicing and safety and security.
“The benefits of the proposed development include improved and safer cycling and pedestrian facilities and an enhanced and high quality public realm.
Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down), Hackney’s cabinet member for transport and the public realm, said: “We have long supported the aspiration for a better, safer environment for cyclists and pedestrians at Old Street roundabout, and are pleased to see at least some of our views now incorporated into the plans — including the much-needed greening offered by the new roof to the station and the retention of the lift for station users.
“Unfortunately the approved designs still don’t compensate for the disproportionate impact the changes will have on Hackney given the increased traffic flow and the loss of direct station access into the borough — not least for Cranwood Street residents who will have six lanes of traffic in front of their homes.
“There are still opportunities to mitigate against some of the environmental impact the changes will have on the roundabout’s neighbours in Hackney. I’d strongly urge Islington Council and TfL to work with us to explore these.”
TfL were approached for comment.