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Jeremy Corbyn on ‘reclaimed’ Archway town centre: ‘It shows a community can change things’

PUBLISHED: 10:24 23 August 2017 | UPDATED: 14:43 24 August 2017

Mayor of Islington Cllr Una O'Halloran, Cllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP, deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross and council leader Cllr Richard Watts unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington Council

Mayor of Islington Cllr Una O'Halloran, Cllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP, deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross and council leader Cllr Richard Watts unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington Council

Archant

It’s divided opinion, but the pedestrianised Archway town centre is officially here to stay.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP and deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington CouncilCllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP and deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington Council

The £12.6million transformation was formally unveiled by Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday evening, with a stone paving in his name.

The slightly bizarre ceremony was put on by Islington Council with Transport for London (TfL).

It featured a gazebo, where guests were treated to artisan canapes (the scotch eggs, topped with watercress, were peak Islington) after the speeches.

But it certainly demonstrated the popular appeal of Labour leader Mr Corbyn. A curious crowd gathered as soon as he arrived. One man asked the Gazette: “Are you a reporter? Tell the world the hood loves Jeremy Corbyn!”

Cllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP and deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington CouncilCllr Claudia Webbe, Jeremy Corbyn MP and deputy mayor of London Val Shawcross unveil the pedestrianised Archway town centre. Picture: Keith Emmit/Islington Council

The work to get rid of the old gyratory was controversial, but the veteran MP made no apologies in his speech.

Mr Corbyn said, as Islington councillors keenly shuffled along in order to stand next to him: “This is actually historic. There have been campaigns over traffic in this area as long as I have been in north London.

“Those debates were all about what kind of city we want to live in. Do we want a motorists’ city, one giant car park? Or do we want something different?

“People in this area were fed up at being ignored by road planners. Cycling around the old traffic island was very, very dangerous.

“We pressed and pressed, and now we have got this: a great open space. Reclaiming it for the people is very important. It shows a community can change things, and we have done just that.”

He added: “I hope in the future, the social balance of this area is retained with more social housing, so people aren’t driven out by speculative developers selling at the highest possible price.”

Not everyone was impressed. Cycle campaigner Anita Frizzarin, known for causing mischief at council meetings, confronted Mr Corbyn – who she supports – about the square’s cycle lane that “doesn’t go anywhere”.

And, as Islington transport leader Cllr Claudia Webbe gave a speech about the “once in a lifetime” development, Ms Frizzarin yelled: “Gillespie Road needs closing!”

She was referring to the Highbury rat run, which campaigners want closed to motorists, and said afterwards: “The councillors say all these nice things, talk about campaigning...it’s bollocks.”

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