Green light given for huge British Library extension

Community-focused £500m scheme will build new galleries, a learning centre, green spaces and a home for the Alan Turing Institute of data science

An extension of the British Library’s St Pancras site, to include new galleries and event spaces as well as a community garden, has been greenlit.

The extension, costing £500m according to Construction News, will create a “brand new public space for London that’s connected to our local community and open to the world”, said Roly Keating, the chief executive of the library.

Camden council’s planning committee approved the plans, which will add approximately 100,000 sq ft of new space to the library, at a meeting at the end of January. However, the plans still have to go before the Greater London Assembly to finalise legal agreements.

As well as galleries, the extension would include a bespoke new learning centre and additional event spaces, with new, “more informal” entrances to the library site on roads at its sides. At the heart of the extension, said the library, would be a “new foyer to host events with local communities and businesses”.

The interior of the British Library … Courtyards and event spaces will enhance its use.
The interior of the British Library … Courtyards and event spaces will enhance its use. Photograph: Jo Chambers/Alamy

Green courtyards and walkways “for everyone to enjoy” would be complemented by a community garden at Ossulston Street. The library will also establish a permanent home for the Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence.

The extension, said the library, would give the venue the chance to welcome more learners of all ages with new programmes and facilities, increase the “range of services for people starting or growing small businesses, including, for the first time, dedicated maker spaces” and offer more opportunities for “skills and career development, and new jobs, particularly for people living locally and for Camden’s young people”.

It would also allow it to “celebrate local culture and heritage and develop events, exhibitions and opportunities for and with the local community”.

The “long-planned extension will make it possible for even more people to access and enjoy the library”, Keating said. “Working with our partners, we look forward to collaborating with our neighbours in Camden and beyond as we develop our site for everyone,” he added.

The library’s expansion is being done with development partners Stanhope and Mitsui Fudosan UK, and involved an “extensive consultation process”. David Camp, chief executive of Stanhope, said the plans delivered “much needed new space for the British Library” and would “also provide a significant number of benefits and opportunities for the local community”.


Sarah Shaffi

The GuardianTramp

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