Gazette letters: Protecting Islington’s environment

The declaration of a climate emergency was signed at Islington Town Hall in June 2019. Picture: SEBA

The declaration of a climate emergency was signed at Islington Town Hall in June 2019. Picture: SEBASTIAN SANDYS - Credit: Sebastian Sandys

I am delighted that just two weeks after the publication of an open letter in the Gazette and with just one week to spare, the council finally found the magic money tree, writes Sebastian Sandys, Extinction Rebellion.

Seemingly out of nowhere they were able to announce £4m additional spending on measures to produce a fairer, greener Islington to be included in last Thursday's budget.

Along with the publication of a strategy for reducing greenhouse gases that was first promised almost 18 months ago, February 19, 2020 may well prove to have been a moment to look back on.

A week is a long time in politics but it's not long enough to scrutinise a budget. We know though that £4m is nowhere near enough of course and councillors have a long way to go to gain the confidence of campaigners who have in recent times felt ignored and patronised by some of their elected representatives. But a journey has begun. I'm pleased.

I'm pleased too not to be at the town hall with Extinction Rebellion this week glueing myself to Cllr Watts after all, fun as that might have been. Much better to step back, give people (a little) time to keep their word and engage in the dialogue they promise.

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We have all learned a lot since school kids, un-cooperative crusties and (of course) those pesky extremists changed the debate about the climate for ever. We must act, but we will act more wisely if we give ourselves, and each other, space to reflect, to listen and to learn. Don't get me wrong. We're watching. And if councillors show any sign of slowing down rather than speeding up, or indeed of sitting on their laurels then we'll be even more vocal and disruptive than we have been so far. I doubt we've done with sitting in the traffic yet, (even if at Highbury Corner you might not notice us these days).

And yes superglue has a long, long shelf life.

How/why were Highbury East and Mildmay wards prioritised as Islington's first 'liveable neighbourhood' (Islington set to get first 'liveable neighbourhood'), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

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Did I and others miss the public consultation on the matter? I understand that last week's official announcement took even Highbury East ward councillor Caroline Russell by surprise.

If the council wants to retain the support of its residents - particularly in the run-up to May's important GLA and mayoral elections - it must be transparent in its decision-making.

I notice that, following the above pronouncement, ward councillor Paul Convery tweeted on February 21 that "Caledonian ward will have a liveable neighbourhood too! Just from a different income source to the investment planned for Highbury and Mildmay".

Is Cllr Convery simply exercising bragging-rights, or is there another unconsulted scheme in the pipeline?

If the council's current logo of "Investing in a Fairer Islington" is to become more than words, an excellent public-realm starting-point would be the drastic reduction in parking on our jam-packed local roads.

Given that fewer than one-third of borough households owns or has access to a private vehicle, the present grotesquely unfair situation could easily be turned on its head, finally giving meaning to the council's previous 'For the many, not the few' buzz phrase.

Less costly than creating 'liveable neighbourhoods', and fairer.

When I was in Athens some years ago, tickets for the bus network were sold in booklets and individual passengers had to validate their tickets in a machine on entering the bus, so they could not be reused, writes Mike Crowson, Islington Green Party.

There were two rear entrances and tickets could be validated at the rear entrances too. From what I saw, fewer than half of the passengers actually did so.

When the three-door 'Boris Buses' were introduced, many people wondered if there would be a problem with passengers not touching in Oyster Cards at the rear doors and sure enough Transport for London has just announced they are to be converted to single entry because of fare dodging. After spending millions designing and building the Boris bus, meant to speed up public transport in central London, it now has to be redesigned to be functional. It is a pity that Boris, then mayor of London rather than prime minister, was so concerned with a personal vanity project that he did not bother to think his proposal through in detail.

Now our prime minister, Boris's idea that the UK can abandon EU standards, meant to ensure a level playing field, and have a trade deal with the EU, suggests the implication is true - he simply does not think his plans through. While not having an immediate answer to the EU conundrum, however, I can at least suggest an easy solution to fare dodging which would allow all the doors to keep opening. If Mr Johnson's government made a realistic grant to TfL and made the buses completely free, there would be no fares to dodge and the Boris buses' reputation could be restored! It would make sense to increase the use of public transport and help reduce our carbon footprint.

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