March 9 2014 Latest news:
by Rory Brigstock-Barron
Monday, February 24, 2014
A scheme to turn a former community centre into studio flats has been labelled “awful” by a leading councillor.
The proposal, submitted by SP Planning, to turn the office space at Canonbury Community Centre in Halliford Street into 55 studio flats, does not need council permission due to the relaxation of planning laws in May last year.
It is one of several plans for commercial property in the borough taking advantage of the controversial new laws, which were unsuccessfully challenged by the town hall last month.
Councillors say that projects, such as plans to turn the Archway Tower into 118 one and two bedroom studio flats and the conversion of council offices at Highbury House to 35 homes, are a serious threat to levels of affordable housing and employment space.
According to drawings of the proposed “studios” most of the flats would provide less than 25sq meters of floor space, well below the usual minimum council requirement of 38sq metres.
Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing, said: “This is a really awful proposal – they’re set to get away with providing no affordable housing, and they’re planning to cram 56 bedsit flats into this building.
“There are a lot of schemes like this across Islington – ones where we’re losing valuable employment space, seeing flats that are too small, and getting no affordable housing at all. As well as this, the government’s policy means neighbouring residents get no say about the effects these developments will have on their quality of life.”
As well as launching an unsuccessful legal challenge, the council applied for an exemption for the whole borough in May, but will have to go back to the drawing board after minister for planning Nick Boles said its application was not appropriate and disproportionate.
A statement on Mr Boles’s website said that his department would be writing to the authority to request it considers “reducing the extent of their directions so that they are more targeted”.
But Cllr Murray argued that developments such as this were a prime example of why the law was damaging to the borough.
“It is exactly the sort of development we wanted to protect Islington from by blocking the government policy that allows the automatic conversion of offices to flats,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the government has recently said they won’t let us go ahead with blocking this policy from applying to the whole borough.”