Campaigners on Holloway’s Harvist Estate fighting plans for new homes over fire fears
PUBLISHED: 19:00 16 May 2018
A planned development on a Holloway estate has been panned by a group living on it – who say it could stop emergency services from accessing the tower blocks.
Days after the Grenfell Tower blaze in June last year, a fire broke out in Hind House on the Harvist Estate off Hornsey Road.
Some 200 people had managed to escape the block before the eight fire engines arrived along Citizen Road to contain it. With the west London disaster fresh in the minds, some even jumped out of windows.
Ward councillor Richard Greening told a council meeting had it not been for the bravery of the firefighters, there was “no guarantee” a similar tragedy would not have occurred.
Months before that, 300 out of the 500 people living on the estate signed a petition against Islington Council’s plans to put 24 new homes along Citizen Road. The proposals would see a new single lane street replace the existing two-lane road.
The council’s response to that petition, campaigners learnt in February, was to use the objections as a guide to revise the plans. The town hall is in desperate need of new “genuinely affordable” homes for the 18,300 households on its housing register and says it is committed to building more.
But speaking to the Gazette in Citizen Road this week, campaigners said they would fight the plans every step of the way.
“The petition was not meant to improve the idea but give them countless reasons why we as a community reject it,” they said.
“They seem intent to build regardless of the voice of the majority of Harvist Estate residents who unreservedly do not want it to go ahead.
“They want to make this road one way. The worries are basically Grenfell. We had the fire last year and the fire engines had trouble getting down here.
“Lorries regularly park up to deliver stock to the shops at the bottom and if that happens ambulances and fire engines won’t be able to get down. Police horses are also kept on the road during Arsenal games – what will happen then?”
The council insists the layout of the road has been carefully considered and following consultations with the fire brigade it will be suitable for emergency vehicles, bin lorries and delivery vans. But people on the estate still argue that in reality, it won’t be.
Another concern is the loss of privacy as the new builds, up to three storeys, will face the existing blocks. Two years of disruption caused by building work and a loss of trees are other factors.
“We’re not against building housing,” one campaigner who didn’t want to be named said. “We just feel this development is being squeezed into a place where it could be dangerous.”
Another has said the council should look at using some of the empty buildings across London to provide homes for the 18,000 households on its waiting list.
The town hall insist most of the feedback from the initial meetings early last year was positive. They said a “high number” of people showed an interest in moving to the new homes and changed the footprint of the new builds so that no open space would be lost.
Housing chief Cllr Diarmaid Ward said: “Islington faces a desperate shortage of genuinely affordable housing. There is strong local support for new genuinely affordable housing for local people, and we’re committed to building more council homes.
“We know some residents of the Harvist estate are concerned about the impact of this programme and will do everything we can to help minimise disruption.
“Locals also benefit from our lettings policy, which means residents on the estate in housing need get first priority to move into the new properties – freeing up their homes to more people waiting for affordable housing.
“We’re committed to working with residents on new build schemes to take their issues and concerns into account, and are happy to meet and discuss this.”
Meanwhile, private developers have lost an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate over plans to build a five-storey block of 24 homes and a redeveloped nursery on the other side of the estate in conjunction with housing association The Guinness Partnership.
The government body found the level of affordable housing proposed – nine homes – falls “seriously short” of the 50 per cent requirement, and that the height and lack of turning space for emergency vehicles were problems.