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Condemned Islington block of flats could be rebuilt as part of new Bemerton Estate

PUBLISHED: 17:56 02 March 2011

The block of flats in Pembroke Street

The block of flats in Pembroke Street

Archant

A BLOCK of 14 flats that is to be demolished because councillors believe it is ugly could be rebuilt as part of a new Bemerton Estate.

Choudhury Mansions, in Pembroke street, Islington – known locally as the “banana flats” – will have to be pulled down after its owners Volta Developments lost a final appeal to a government planning inspector.

Islington Council earlier refused the building retrospective planning permission after it was found not to match the original plans approved by town hall chiefs in 2002. One councillor has likened it to a “prison block”.

There are currently 13,000 people on the housing waiting list in Islington - but Islington Councils say the demolition of Choudhury Mansions could actually help ease the borough’s housing crisis in the long term as the site could now be incorporated into plans to rebuild the Bemerton Estate.

Councillor Paul Convery: “This is practically a mini-hotel. Scarcely anybody lives there for more than a couple of months. It doesn’t house people who need to be housed and or in any way contribute to fixing our housing problem.

“That’s one of the reasons we have been relaxed about the consequences of the demolition order.

“It’s a shockingly poor building. The basement flooded out a whole lot of times and it’s a bit of a prison block to live in.

“One possibility is for a new block to be integrated into the Bemerton Estate to contribute some new affordable housing to the borough.”

Property developer Niaz Choudhury claims he spent his life savings putting up the block on the site of former pub the Marquis of Salisbury, and offered to reduce the number of flats from 14 to nine in the hope of a last-minute compromise.

Properties in Pembroke Street are worth £245,488 on average, making it one of the cheapest places to live in N1, where the average house price is £550,000.

In total the building would be worth over £3million on the open market – but all the flats are currently rented to foreign students in Britain to learn English.

The council’s objections were numerous, including complaints about the oatmeal colour of the building, its “cramped and unattractive” entrance, lack of an internal bin area and “obtrusive” lift tower on the roof.

There were also claims that late night parties on the roof disturbed tenants on the neighbouring Bemerton Estate.

Jacqueline Durman, 66, who lives on the Bemerton, said; “We call it the banana flats and I would be glad to see it go. We’re too built up around here. I’d like to see it replaced with houses, not a block of flats.”

William Perrin, who runs the King’s Cross Environment website, said: “We are delighted. The building is pig ugly and very low quality and it’s really important that elected councillors enforce planning rules so that developers cannot just build what they want.

“If pulling it down has any impact on the housing situation in the borough, the blame for that lies entirely with the developer.”

Councillor Rupert Perry, who represents Caledonian ward, said: “This developer erected the shoddiest building in our neighbourhood and thought he could get away with it. No developer should think Islington Council’s planning policies can be ignored. We are no soft touch.

“We want affordable housing built to family-sized dimensions. And we require the highest standards of design and amenity space.

“Caledonian councillors are vigilant for any and every abuse of the planning system.”


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