Editor’s comment: Housing vital to health

Hathersage Court in Newington Green. Picture: CHRIS WOOD

Hathersage Court in Newington Green. Picture: CHRIS WOOD - Credit: Archant

Anyone who wasn’t consciously blanking out the news by December will recall that the redevelopment of Hathersage Court and Besant Court have been controversial for a while.

When we moved to our Newington Green office a year ago, posters on streetlamps urging neighbours to object to the application were among the first things we noticed.

Then came the heated planning meeting in December at which the Newington Green Action Group was accused by the estate's residents' association of "the worst kind of middle-class NIMBYism" - to which there came (I am told) a collective intake of breath and the words "how dare you" shouted across the parapet.

Doing little, I must say, for their own reputation this week are a chiropodist and dentist who want to build a block of private flats to frustrate Islington's attempts to ameliorate the housing crisis.

Islington has vowed to give them both new homes if it buys (back) the land. Both practices are within their rights to be concerned: they fulfil a local need and as leaseholders of the council may feel less secure than they do in their own freeholds. But shouldn't their efforts then be directed towards getting the reassurances and terms they need, rather than frustrating the entire process?

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As the product of an NHS family, I'm disappointed to see health professionals failing to grasp the link between housing and health outcomes. Unstable housing makes it harder to hold down a job, get rest, eat healthily, stay safe from addiction and abuse, manage mental health and develop a support network. It makes it harder for your children to stay in school and, later, to secure training and work. In 2017, the Local Government Association wrote: "Evidence tells us that the health of people experiencing homelessness is significantly worse than that of the general population, and the cost of homelessness experienced by single people to the NHS and social care is considerable."

Dr Michael Ward's claim that "the planned block of flats [above the practices] are equivalent to the block of flats the council have already granted themselves planning permission for, any grievances applying equally to both" rather sidesteps the fact that there is a clear social need for the council's proposal, and little or none for his. Islington doesn't want to redevelop this estate because it's bored but because there are 14,000 families on its caseload in housing need.

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