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Fears conservation in Islington is being hit by rise in developments

PUBLISHED: 16:13 23 August 2013 | UPDATED: 16:13 23 August 2013

Ian Shacklock and Del Brennan at the bridge over the canal, near Hampstead Road Lock in Camden Town.

Ian Shacklock and Del Brennan at the bridge over the canal, near Hampstead Road Lock in Camden Town.

Archant

Town Hall bosses were this week challenged over their ability to protect the borough’s most prized historical landmarks and green spaces after figures emerged showing rising levels of planning applications being approved in conservation areas.

The figures, obtained by the Gazette, show 14.4 per cent of all applications 
approved by Islington Council last year were in conservation areas – nearly one in six of 1,337 approvals.

According to the council’s own website, conservation areas are places of “special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”.

However, the overall number of applications given the green light is up from nine per cent in 2010/11 out of a total 1,558 approved – fuelling fears of an urban sprawl.

Ian Shacklock, chairman of Friends of Regent’s Canal, said: “It is worrying if there’s more. My first reaction is it makes my blood boil. The council are probably scared if they know there is a high chance of them being overturned.

“We do have to ask if we are losing the charm, are we losing the character, are we losing open spaces?

“We need to protect these places because they look nice and they remind us of our heritage.

“It does at times feel like we’re turning into Singapore, building things and then just knocking them down and then building them twice as large.

“It’s really annoying when you see these huge modern blocks of flats springing up which pay no resemblance to surrounding areas and are out of keeping with original characteristics.”

The council has the power to approve planning applications in two ways. Either a committee of elected councillors to which residents can make public representations can give the go-ahead, or unelected council officers can approve developments under “delegated powers”.

However, other conservation groups blame government changes implemented last year under the National Planning Policy Framework, favouring a “presumption in favour of development”.

Andrew Bosi, chairman of heritage group Islington 
Society, said: “We have to wonder if this is a consequence of the NPPF.

“We are concerned there is a laissez faire attitude and that it may result in a loss in terms of our heritage.”

There are currently 40 conservation areas across Islington, the oldest of which is Clerkenwell Green, which was approved as a protected area in 1968.

A council spokesman said: “Every planning application is considered in line with our adopted policies to 
ensure that conservation 
areas are protected.

“We work in a positive and collaborative manner 
resulting in applicants coming forward with planning applications that are more likely to meet with our policies.”

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