Foodbank thanks, Super League, save green spaces and Green future

VIc Mason at Muswell Hill Foodbank

VIc Mason amongst some of the donations for Muswell Hill Foodbank - Credit: Vic Mason

Thanks for vital foodbank donations

Vic Mason, manager, Muswell Hill Foodbank, writes:

Last March as the first lockdown was announced we leapt into action and completely reorganised Muswell Hill Foodbank.

By the end of March, our cafe area had become a packing area where we can now have two volunteers packing bags of produce at a safe distance from each other which we then hand over to clients who now have to wait outside.

We also received the first of our grants from Haringey Giving which helped enormously in keeping our store room stocked. Pre-pandemic, we ran regular collections at local supermarkets where shoppers would buy some extra packaged food to donate to us. Obviously, this has been impossible since March. So we’ve relied heavily on donations and grants.


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We’ve had offers of help from dozens of people wanting to volunteer their time. We’ve been able to set up a delivery service and we now have a team of 30 drivers.

Last summer, when Marcus Rashford started his free school meals campaign, we set up our delivery service to families referred by their schools. We hate to think of children going hungry and families struggling to put food on the table. So our volunteers contacted schools who then contacted the families they knew would benefit most from this service. We delivered food parcels to local schools over the summer, issued vouchers for families to pick up food parcels and went on to deliver food to more than 200 families in Haringey and Barnet over Christmas and again during this last lockdown.

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In the year up to the end of February 2020, we had distributed just over 34,000kg of food to 1,690 families, including 2,285 adults and 1,114 children. At the end of February 2021, that’s increased to 44,650kg of food to 1,973 families, including 2,748 adults and 1,877 children.

We couldn’t have done this without the support of the local community. The massive increase in donations and the community’s desire to help has been constantly uplifting. We’ve had a constant supply of food being dropped off, people have organised street collections, businesses have donated, cricket clubs, bridge clubs, the list is endless. During the first lockdown, we also had the strange sight of British Gas vans delivering food donated by Tesco. While it’s been a terrible year of lockdowns and loss, it’s also been one of overwhelming generosity and the kindness of strangers.

So from the team and volunteers at Muswell Hill Foodbank, we’d like to take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to your readers and the local community. Your donations of food, cash and time have been greatly appreciated by us all.

Super League all about revenues

Paul Swan, Bavaria Road, Islington, writes:

I expect this opinion will be in the minority but as a fan of a club not in the Premier League and never has been, the sense of irony at the outrage felt from Murdoch-employed Sky pundits to this new breakaway league in search of greater commercialisation isn’t lost on us.

Authenticity was sacrificed for profits in 1992 when the Premier League was formed - the billionaires, oligarchs and hedge funds have since been welcomed with open arms, with FIFA and UEFA all too happy to cheer them on from the sidelines. I don’t mean to have a go at anyone, but it feels like football fans have been under the illusion that they have any real control over their clubs for some time now. Slowly but surely fans and communities have been stripped of their power and influence by capitalists and speculators in search of power and profits. Football has become a play-thing for the haves funded by the have-nots. 

I can’t help but think that this European Super League is football’s chickens coming home to roost - did we really think that the biggest clubs owned by an elite really had competitiveness or fair play in mind when they took over? They want to protect and maximise their investments. That’s where their interests lie.

All we can hope that these developments lead to the growth of a fan-run movement so at least when these decisions are made they are done with fans and communities in mind instead of revenues. 

Green space must be safeguarded

Dixon Clark Court garden before the council arrived. Picture: James Dunnett

Dixon Clark Court garden before the council arrived. Picture: James Dunnett - Credit: Archant

Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington, writes:

The Labour Party was in government at Westminster for 13 of the 29 years the Roman Way flats have been empty and decaying - Emily Thornberry an MP for the last five of those.

Both must, therefore, take some responsibility for the debacle that is their sell-off to a private developer (Help end empty homes so we can support homeless).

Meantime, in other borough housing matters, across some 17 long-established council estates permission has already granted for council homes to be built on residents’ green spaces - a total of 550 homes are to be completed by 2022 - in time for next year’s local election? - with a further nine sites currently out for consultation. These include Bemerton South in Caledonian ward, and Aubert/Drakeley courts in Highbury West.

A by-election will be held in the latter on May 6, giving the residents an opportunity to express their views through their vote - the detailed proposals can be found in this link.

Islington’s Development Management Policy DM6.3 is clear: “Regarding open space...development is not permitted on semi-private amenity spaces, including open space within housing estates and other similar spaces in the borough not designated as public open space...unless the loss of amenity space is compensated and the development has over-riding planning benefits”. No wonder the retiring head of the Islington Society, David Gibson, has stated publicly that the borough’s need for more affordable housing must not be at the expense of its green spaces.

What those “over-riding planning benefits” are isn’t spelled out but it’s hard to see, for example, what they might be in the case of the Dixon Clark Court (DCC) where a residents’ beautiful communal garden and the Highbury Corner “little forest” of mature trees have been destroyed for a maximum of 25 council homes and a block of small leaseholder flats. Across 15 of the estates already granted planning permission, some 180 mature and semi-mature trees will be destroyed.

Like local authorities across the country, Islington needs more affordable homes but why should these be at the expense of the environmental amenity of already-existing tenants, some of whom will be the least well-off of local residents? 

How resident agreement to the proposed developments is secured also needs to be examined. Existing tenants are offered “first dibs” on their estate’s new-builds, while it seems that DCC residents were offered one year free from council tax if they agreed to the planning proposals for their site.

No-one can blame tenants for accepting these offers - particularly if their existing homes are in a state of disrepair or if they’re in financial need. 

Whether the proposed densification of their estates and loss of green space and trees is in their longer-term interests is another matter.

Now is the time for real change

Katie Dawson, candidate, Highbury West ward, Green Party, writes:

I have not been tempted to stand in any council elections since my spell as Islington’s first Green councillor in 2006-2010.

However, the Labour Party’s current super-majority on the council (controlling 47 of the 48 seats, until a couple of recent defections) has led to an increasingly top-down approach to decision-making and to an attitude that takes its voters for granted. In order to challenge this I will be standing as the Green Party candidate in the forthcoming Highbury West by-election. 
Local democracy needs lively debate and a range of voices in order to remain healthy and reflective of the people it serves. 

The recent introduction of the LTN trial in Highbury West is a case in point. I strongly support the aims and objectives of LTNs, but to impose them without taking people with you actually reduces their chance of success. 

A lack of both consultation and transparency ahead of its introduction and a notable lack of listening once it was in place means it has been met with resistance by a lot of residents, many of whom would have been supportive if it had been handled differently. 

Similarly, the council’s current policy of eyeing all gardens and green spaces on estates as fair game for new building is undemocratic, uncaring and completely at odds with its declaration of a climate emergency.  

The outcry over the recent destruction of a beautiful community garden beloved by the residents of Dixon Clark Court, as well as the felling of the “little forest” intended to protect those same residents from the chronically congested Highbury Corner, has not given them pause for thought. 

On the contrary, they now intend to wreak the same destruction on many other estates across the borough, including Aubert Court in Highbury West where I live. This high rise estate was built with green space and trees as an integral part of the design. The architects understood that gardens and nature are not a nicety, but an essential element of human wellbeing. 

Controlling 47 out of 48 seats on the council for so many years has led this council to think it doesn’t need to listen to people. 

If elected, I will tackle this this attitude head-on. I will stick up for Highbury residents and challenge the council to start making decisions with us.

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