Bitter feud escalates as church bids to make clergy homes in Holloway available on open market

Friends of Mary Magdelene Gardens

Friends of Mary Magdelene Gardens - Credit: Archant

A bitter feud between a church, a school and park users has escalated as a bid to allow new homes originally meant for church staff to be sold on the open market reaches the town hall.

Plans to turn the old Coroners Court, in St Mary Magdalene Gardens, off Holloway Road, into a special school and two houses was given the nod by an Islington Council planning committee last year in the face of fierce opposition from residents.

One condition of approval was that the Holloway homes would only be used for church staff, but now the applicants – St Mary Magdelene Church, based in the gardens and St Mary Magdelene Academy, in nearby Liverpool Road – have asked the town hall to let them off the stipulation.


Val Hammond, vice-chairman of the Friends of St Mary Magdalene Gardens, said: “It’s a bit disingenuous.

“People were really against this. There were lots and lots of letters from residents about it.

“The planning meeting was packed with people who opposed it.

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“During the meeting, Reverend Rust [from the church] said the accommodation would just be for church staff and personnel.

“He said they were in desperate need of it.

“Well what happened to them? Why have they now applied to scrap it?

“It’s an extremely controversial development anyway, because it involves chopping down trees and vehicles potentially going right into the gardens.”

Ms Hammond said 78-year-old Eileen Richardson, who lives in the mortuary keeper’s cottage in the gardens, was particularly concerned because private renters would be less accountable than church staff.

She added: “These houses will be worth a fortune if this goes through, maybe even millions.

“The Reverend clearly knows what he is doing – maybe the church needs the money for something else.

“We just want the old building to be brought back into public use as a cafe or museum. We implore the council to reverse their decision.”

A council spokesman said: “The committee approved the original application with a planning condition to make sure the flats should be used by church staff or otherwise offered as affordable housing.

“The applicant has applied to have that requirement removed from the planning permission conditions and we will respond to them soon.”

Neither Rev Rust or anyone from the school were available for comment as the Gazette went to press.