Gazette letters: Councillor’s legacy, Cally Park and legalising drugs


- Credit: PA WIRE

As Cllr James Murray, lead member for housing, looks to make his big career move to the new London Mayor’s team seemingly to help Sadiq Khan deliver on the big issue of housing, it’s time to examine how well he has done in Islington, writes Phil Cosgrove, Joseph Trotter Close, Finsbury Estate.

Cllr Murray certainly likes to be seen to be tackling the big issues.

In 2011, the former Mayor, Boris Johnson, reduced the percentage of the London housing target for social-rented homes from 35 per cent to 25pc and the total “affordable” housing target from 50pc to 40pc.

In response, Cllr Murray loudly and publicly argued that the higher percentage targets should be kept.

He also had these higher targets set in Islington’s local policies. However, over the last five years, with Cllr Murray at helm, just 584 (9pc) of the 6,661 additional homes delivered in Islington were social-rented. The vast majority, 5,469, (82pc) were market priced (mostly luxury) homes.

The 626 (9pc) remainder were “intermediate” – part-rent, part-buy homes – that few with below-London-median incomes can afford.

The Murray record then, which he is much quieter about, is delivery of more than nine times the number of homes for luxury apartment dwellers than of homes for ordinary working class families who continue to be forced out of the borough to meet their housing needs.

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Anyone who was out last weekend enjoying the glorious weather could see quite clearly that local people do not need a sort of classroom with a patronising “activity plan” to know how to make the most of Caledonian Park, writes Lizzy McInnerny, Clock View Crescent, Islington.

Picnic blankets as far as the eye could see; families playing safely with their children in clear sight. We do not need a visitors’ centre to attract people to the park, as stated by Islington Council’s planning committee on May 10. After all, how could that be the attraction when we have a Grade II listed clock tower and a beautiful clear open space around it?

At the committee, the south gate, never explored as an option [for the location of the visitors’ centre] – in fact, deliberately excluded, despite repeated requests from the community throughout all three consultations – was billed, yet again, as having been objected to by Historic England.

But I quote from an email addressed to me personally from Claire Brady, inspector of historic buildings and areas at Historic England on April 12: “In terms of an alternative position close to the south gate, I can confirm that this is not an option that has been presented to us or considered by us.”

The Victorian Society’s concerns about the project were not even referred to at the planning meeting, let alone considered.

Cllr Paul Convery talked of the preservation of the preferred view from the south on Market Road. For whom is this view preserved? Surely not for the people inside the tennis centre with barely a window facing the park, or those playing football in the sunken pitches from which there are no views into the park? Perhaps it is for those drivers in their cars as they speed along when they should be watching where they are going. Certainly not for residents, as no one lives in front of the gates of the park on Market Road. There are, however, 450 dwellings are at the north gate where the views will be obscured.

The experience of the professionals employed by Southern Housing Group, in the design of the boulevard entrance to the new parkside estate, was not deemed of value and not discussed at the meeting.

This is despite the fact that Southern Housing Group were advised by security bodies to have clear open sight into and across the park from the north gate. There are still some problems but the clear sight has massively reduced ASB levels and brought the park back from being a no-go area.

How bizarre, then, that the proposed location for the visitor centre is on the very site where the garages on the Old Market Estate blocked all views and which Southern housing removed, because it provided the perfect cover for ASB, including prostitution, drug taking and selling, to flourish.

There is no ranger presence planned in the new proposal at night, when most ASB currently takes place, but this appointment was cited by planning as as a reason for going ahead alongside CCTV. If the planning committee had asked, residents could have told them that the last time CCTV was used as a solution in blind spots in the area, the equipment was stolen by the very people it was meant to deter.

The reason for the chosen location is that we are being used to “police” it and our welfare does not matter.

Cllrs Paul Smith and Claudia Webbe, and their cronies Chris Hariades, Andrew Bedford and James Gilchrist, among many others, should be ashamed. This has been a travesty for democracy, a by-product of such an unchallenged Labour majority: 47 of 48 of the councillors are Labour, and they have abused this power. The entire process has been sickening and patronising in its execution and its treatment of the local community.

Sadly for the people who live and work in and near the park, it will be us who will suffer in the long term.

It is interesting to see the Liberal Democrats pursue the policy of legalising cannabis to fund the NHS, e.g. with the taxation it could generate, writes Michael McElligott, Amwell Street, Islington.

Could it be viewed that the Labour and Tory parties wish to protect drug dealers from taxation by promoting their policies of “no way, dude”, or are the MPs controlled by the drinks industry and the drinks industry do not want the competition? Remember alcohol is also a drug.

With the current policy the only winners are the privatised non-taxed drug dealers.

In reality, the law is not really enforceable on people who partake in the consumption of cannabis. When there is no logic to the resistance, you have to ask: what is the problem?

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