‘Spectacular’ British Library extension approved by planners – despite neighbours’ concerns about light loss

A visualisation of the new extension. Image: Rogers Stirk Harbour

An “exciting and distinctive” £500m extension to the British Library has won approval from planners.

The scheme includes a 12-storey building, with two basement levels providing an extra 100,000 square feet of space for books, galleries and events.

New entrances will be created on Ossulston Street and Midland Road near St Pancras station.

The building will replace the British Library Centre for Conservation and also provide a new home for the  Alan Turing Institute.

Camden’s planning committee yesterday approved the scheme, which has to pay for itself without any funding from the government, meaning it includes some commercial space.

Work on the extension is expected to be finished by 2029.

It also has to make space for Crossrail 2 infrastructure and a pedestrian walkway that will run the length of the basement to the ticket hall on Midland Road.

The British Library opened opposite St Pancras station in 1997 on the site of an old goodsyard and the space was earmarked for the library back in 1973.

The Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum is concerned that the new tower will create shadowing over the living rooms of flats in nearby Levita, Chamberlain, and Hadstock Houses, and that residents could be affected by light pollution.

Cllr Sue Vincent asked officers about the impact.

The council’s principal conservation officer Catherine Bond said it was “what you would expect in dense, urban environment”.

The Forum would also like to see a pop-up garden whilst the building in constructed to reduce the impact of losing the community-led Story Garden, which will make way for the new building and Crossrail 2 ventilation shafts.

The British Library will also make a £23m contribution to affordable housing in Somers Town.

Chief executive Roly Keating said: “This long-planned extension will make it possible for even more people to access and enjoy the Library, with a host of flexible new spaces including a new bespoke learning centre and spectacular new exhibition galleries.”

The plan now has to be referred to the Mayor of London for approval.

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