Gazette letters: Housing, school runs, cycling, Holloway bridge works and ending child poverty

The empty and eerie Holloway Prison site (Picture: Polly Hancock)

The empty and eerie Holloway Prison site (Picture: Polly Hancock) - Credit: Archant

Glenn Tilbrook is right to be annoyed about the run down of council housing and unaffordable prices of houses in London (Gazette, November 10), writes Chris Hignett, Mayton Street, Islington

In the same edition of the Gazette there were two stories that might help solve the borough’s housing problem. Holloway Prison is now closed and Emily Thornberry called for the closure of Pentonville.

At present the government plans to sell the land to private developers, spending the money to build new prisons outside London. There is a real danger developers will build more unaffordable housing. It is estimated flats on the Holloway site would cost £500k – 15 times the average Islington income.

Instead, on the land released by these closures, there is room to provide 1,000 council houses and other much needed community resources – even some green space.

Given many who end up in prison are homeless and have other social needs, would it not make more sense to build homes instead of yet more failing prisons?

The twice-daily chaos across Islington created by the school run must be addressed without further delay, writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

It’s dangerous, damaging to health and the environment, unsustainable, and on such a scale council officers can’t enforce the law some parents wantonly breach in front of school staff.

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Officers can’t cover all the school sites in the borough, particularly in the face of cuts, so asking they patrol at drop-off and collection times is unrealistic. It’s also passing the buck.

What’s needed is that politicians, school heads and governors come together to acknowledge the problem the borough faces and devise ways of encouraging parents to adopt active-travel plans for pupils. It’s noticeable, for example, the cycle-racks installed with considerable fanfare at the opening of St Mary Magdalene Academy, Liverpool Road, have remained overwhelmingly unused since the school opened several years ago. At the time planning permission was sought, residents were saying the school would attract local children who lived within walking or cycling distance so parents wouldn’t be dropping off children by car. Ha!

Ironically, it’s cyclists and children – particularly babies and toddlers in buggies at exhaust-pipe level – who are particularly vulnerable. Do parents realise exhaust fumes can be worse inside a vehicle than out as filthy air is sucked in through air-vents? Or that children are potentially subject to irreversible reduced lung capacity as a result of the matter being spewed out in exhaust emissions? Or that Islington has shocking rates of asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder)?

Islington could learn from Edinburgh, which is about to implement permanently what began as an experiment in August 2015: car-free zones around six primary schools. There is no human right to drive a car. Safe, clean, healthy routes to local schools are what Islington’s children deserve.

The recent overcrowding at Finsbury Park station highlights increasing pressure on Hackney and Islington’s transport network, writes Jono Kenyon, co-ordinator, Hackney Cycling Campaign, Finsbury Park.

Finsbury Park remains one of London’s busiest zone 2 stations with more than 25 million passengers entering and exiting. This gridlock is set to get much worse as huge new housing developments come online in both Finsbury Park and further north towards Seven Sisters and Tottenham. Crossrail 2 may be a solution but it is a very long way off.

TfL has identified more than four million daily trips (23 per cent of all journeys) that could be made by bike in London. While not everyone can or will cycle, if conditions were radically improved, huge numbers of people would.

It is essential all commuters support plans for high quality routes by bike, to keep London moving. Other European cities are increasingly looking to cycling as a way to avoid overcrowding on their network.

As London’s population explodes, it is time we did the same.

I have been in business at my present location for nearly 20 years and have an established client base, writes Nick Christophorou, Short Cut Barber Shop, Holloway Road.

But the recent totally unexpected closure of Holloway Road due to Upper Holloway bridge replacement works has hit my trade like a bomb. I am unable to display my sandwich board on the pavement as I have done for years and clients assume I am closed. I am at a loss as to why this disruption should inconvenience us for nearly three months. In this day and age a quarter of a year to do a minor replacement is ridiculous! TfL owes local businesses an apology and indeed compensation for loss of earnings. I would like to know who at TfL is responsible as I would like to submit a claim for compensation and would urge other local businesses affected to do likewise.

We are determined to make Islington a fairer place, writes Cllr Joe Caluori, cabinet member for children, young people and families.

At the heart of this is helping all young people in our borough achieve their ambitions, regardless of their background.

Child poverty is a real problem in our borough, as the Gazette reported last week (“Borough among worst for children”, p2). But there is much to be proud of in the work our schools, the council, and the local community are doing to prevent disadvantage from holding young people back.

Islington’s primary schools are in the top 10 in the country for helping children from poorer backgrounds get good results. GCSE results have transformed in recent years, giving young people the chance to go on to further education or enter the world of work with the skills they need.

Last year the council helped two young people a week get an apprenticeship, and our “free school meals for all” policy means every primary school pupil gets a hot and nutritious meal at school every day.

But more must be done to drive down child poverty, including helping more parents into good and secure jobs. The cost of housing plays a significant role in child poverty.