Gazette letters: Holloway Prison site, cycling and Speak Easy

Caravans in the prison car park.

Caravans in the prison car park. - Credit: Archant

The events reported in your article about commercial waste being dumped on the Holloway Prison site are a direct consequence of the Ministry of Justice’s unwillingness or inability to deal with the site both quickly and for public/social benefit, writes Reclaim Holloway.

Holloway Prison has been empty since summer 2016. The Reclaim Holloway coalition and other groups have been calling for the former visitors’ centre, which is outside the prison walls, to be used temporarily to provide services for women and the community, but it (and as a result, the parking lot) has remained locked and empty with only a few security guards onsite.

The activist group Sisters Uncut occupied the centre for a week in May 2017, calling attention to this waste of a public asset. Still the centre remained empty. Several groups have indicated their willingness to provide services there, including homeless support.

Travellers, a community that has historically been over-represented in the UK’s prisons, should not be scapegoated over this. The MoJ created this situation; it should urgently be working with the council to facilitate temporary use of this valuable public asset as soon as possible.

Cllr Claudia Webbe would not be out of place as leader of the Conservative Party when it comes to repeating meaningless slogans (Tory conference is on October 1 to 4, should she want to book a place), writes Anita Frizzarin, Wedmore Gardens, Tufnell Park.

When people attend the “democracy” night at full council to ask about the environment, as I did, they probably do not want to hear over and over again, time after time and year after year that Islington was the first borough to adopt the 20 mile per hour speed limit. All the Islington councillors already know, and we the public have learned it at the previous 12 meetings (and it is not implemented anyway). A sceptical observer might think Cllr Webbe is trying to fill up the allotted time because she has no meaningful reply to give. And, concerning cycling provisions, would they be wrong?

Islington has the lowest number of overnight lockable bicycle parking of all Labour boroughs in London. Have we achieved 18 yet? There were 75 in Hackney last time I counted, because I walked into the town hall full council a number of times, enduring the laughter of all Labour councillors, and made a big fuss.

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People who live in flats have nowhere to park their bikes, yet it never occurred to Islington Council that doing what the rest of Labour councils in London have been doing – providing on-street lockable overnight bike parking that can be rented the same as car spaces, but with six bikes in place of one car – might be a good idea.

Quietways for people who move on bicycles, as the London mayor Sadiq Khan is trying to implement, require the closure of rat runs, or segregated cycle lanes depending on the type of road. What is Cllr Webbe’s reply to that?

No answer at all, nothing, zero, as people who live in Gillespie Road and Thornhill Road – two of the worst rat runs – know very well. Cllr Webbe, it would seem, can single-handedly scupper the mayor’s plan to make London a cycling city.

Islington Council has started only one significant infrastructure project since the last local elections in 2014: Clerkenwell Road/Old Street.

This has been in design for over three years and it’s not clear if consultation will occur this side of the 2018 local elections.

Islington transport policies have not been updated since 2011.

So, this is my question (and please no repeat of the 20 mph): what actual high quality, large and materially significant schemes for cycling does Islington Council propose?

I am writing to support charity Action on Hearing Loss’s “Speak Easy” campaign, which is asking pubs, bars and restaurants in London to reduce their background noise so I and many others with and without hearing loss can enjoy a quieter dining experience, writes Ruth Wilkinson, Tibberton Square, Canonbury.

I hate not being able to have a conversation with friends and family when I am at a social gathering. I have hearing loss and I struggle to hear in quiet situations, so add in loud background noise (which my hearing aids pick up), a conversation is impossible. It’s incredibly isolating to not understand what is being said, and to feel left out of everyday life.

I was recently in Pizza Express in Islington and I could barely hear the waiter and had to ask him to repeat himself several times. We asked to move to a table outside because it was too noisy, but then I had traffic noise to contend with!

I simply don’t understand why restaurants have to be so noisy?

My main issue is the loud music they play in the background. This often forces dinners to shout over the music and so the noise escalates – something that can be easily fixed.

I know there are also design issues with a lot of restaurants, such as open kitchens and lack of soft furnishings, which add to the background noise I’m competing to hear against. I often request a table as far away from the kitchen as possible and sit with my back to the wall so my hearing aids don’t pick up as much noise.

I certainly won’t be going back to the Pizza Express in Upper Street as the experience was not pleasant and I could barely hear my partner.