A large extension to the British Library, which includes space for Crossrail 2, has secured planning approval from Camden Council.

Extension building – Source: British Library planning application

The development will involve extending the northern aspect of the existing British Library to provide library accommodation; commercial space designed to cater for knowledge quarter uses (including life sciences, cultural, scientific and heritage collections and data sciences); retail space; and the Crossrail 2 works at basement level.

The extension is being designed to sit on a large plot of land that’s been reserved for it ever since the library was moved to St Pancras in 1998, and that plot is about 40% of the size of the current library site. The new building will however be taller and have a lot more floor space, so it adds considerably more space to the library than it seems at first glance.

However, the upper floors of the new extension are designed to be used for commercial rent, not for the library to use, as the extension has to be self-funded without government support.

The site was problematic though, as it was also protected for Crossrail 2, but last year the British Library was able to propose a design that will preserve space for a large ventilation shaft for Crossrail by flipping it sideways so that the fan units will lay horizontally under the building instead of being in a large upright “chimney”.

Schematic of old and new site and Crossrail 2 – Source: British Library planning application

The British Library site will also include a deep shaft at the western end of the site, descending from street level through 6 underground levels, to the future depth of the railway tunnels. They will also build an underground pedestrian passageway connecting east-west across the site to provide a route for passengers between the new Crossrail 2 station platform and an expected ticket hall to be built in the future under Midland Road.

The project is expected to cost around £473 million, of which £55 million is for the Crossrail 2 station works.

Schematic of Crossrail 2 station – Source: British Library planning application

The Mayor of London still needs to scrutinize the application, but that’s unlikely to be a problem, and once that approval is granted, construction could start in late 2024 to early 2025, with the building expected to open in 2029.


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