Gazette letters: St Luke’s funding, Cally Park visitor centre, Holloway Road works, mould and a safe Brexit

Islington Council provides and commissions a huge amount of care and activities for residents with mental health needs, including those living with dementia (“Dementia service keeps me ticking over...I am scared of life without it”, Gazette, August 25), writes Cllr Janet Burgess, health and adult social care boss, Islington.

It’s important that our services, and those we use council money to fund, deliver what local people need. This is particularly the case at a time of government cuts.

St Luke’s Community Centre has supported a number of residents with low-level needs who do not meet the threshold for social care support with activities. It also organises a council-funded lunch club.

A review has meant changes to funding.

Despite this, I am pleased that the council has been able to reach agreement for transport with St Luke’s to ensure people can continue to access support at the centre.

I am one of the 2,000-plus residents living in the Parkside Caledonian Development of which a majority are opposed to the construction of a visitor centre at the north gate entrance to Caledonian Park, writes James Barrett, Clock View Crescent, Islington.

Planning guidelines agreed in 2002 by Southern Housing Group and Islington Council stated there should be a minimum of 35 metres between the north of the clock tower and any new buildings.

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The plans for the visitor’s centre suggest construction will be just 18 metres from the clock tower. The planned scale and location of the centre also provides shelter for disturbance and severely compromises the safety and security of local residents.

I am flabbergasted by the use of public funds consulting on this, which apparently has cost Islington Council £339,000 to date. At a time when funds are being restricted, I am appalled by the use of public money in this way. I am also perplexed by Islington Council’s continued persistence to pursue an unsupported visitor centre at this location which lacks community backing and will cost £90,000 a year to run. This is hardly sustainable development. The Heritage Lottery Fund should take a closer look before deciding to financially support such a white elephant.

My family and I have been greatly affected by mould and damp and also asbestos(“Hope for families in damp housing”, Gazette, September 22), writes Janice Bruce, Beachcoft Way, Archway.

I reported my mould and damp condition in approximately January 2015. Islington’s repairs team surveyor attended my property. The mould and damp, which was now green and black with a fur-type look, covered a large amount of my built-in wardrobe. At the time I was heavily pregnant and often at the hospital because I was finding it difficult to breathe and I could not understand why.

The surveyor agreed the mould and damp was bad. The wall outside the wardrobe and the ceiling were also affected. I was advised Islington’s repairs team would clean the mould and repaint the area with anti-mould paint.

A few weeks later the repairs team attended and advised me they could not rectify the mould and damp as I had asbestos in my ceiling and as it had been disturbed it was a hazard. They said they could not work until that situation had been sorted out.

An outside source called Clifford and Devlin then attended my property a few weeks later and advised me they would need to scrape away my ceiling and re-plaster it, replace the artex and re-paint it. I was distressed, especially as I was about to have my baby.

It took 10 or 11 months to sort out the mould and damp. Workmen were in my house for numerous days and sealed off an area within my bedroom to clear the asbestos so I had no use of my bedroom for a day or so.

During this time my son Micah was born and at eight months, he started experiencing breathing difficulties. We attended our GP numerous times as every other week he was getting bronchitis.Finally, in January, they ended up scraping away my walls and re-plastering and painting them again in my bedroom, as well as my wardrobe. They also cleaned and repainted another room within my property that had mould and damp.

My son’s condition worsened and we ended up at Whittington A&E (April 2016). He was admitted for three days and left after his breathing stabilised. I called Islington’s repairs team and stressed the urgency of sorting out the mould and damp.

The manager was very helpful and booked me in quite quickly after a lot of unhelpful people and confusion. She could clearly hear I was very distressed.

A few weeks later, now May 2016, my one-year-old son again returned to the hospital with breathing difficulties. This time it seemed worse than before and again he was admitted. An asthma care plan was written up and we attended outpatient appointments. I advised the doctors of my recent mould and damp situation and they believed this was the cause of his continuous bronchitis. Although the problem had been rectified, the air was still contaminated, and we had been living with mould and damp since his birth.

In June Micah was again rushed to the hospital with the same breathing difficulties. He remained there for four days. Now Micah has to regularly take an inhaler.

The asthma team referred him to the respiratory department at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

I gave up working as I had to put my son first and look after him 24 hours. My husband and I live on edge as we are always thinking he will be taken ill again. After his June episode I have not slept well. I attended the doctor’s myself to obtain sleeping tablets so I could try and sleep. I am not sure when I will feel more at ease.

Islington’s “customer excellence” team has now admitted delay in the time it took for them to rectify the problem and awarded me £430. They also advised me to seek a personal injury claim for my son Micah’s health and to my clothes as my wedding dress and numerous other items were damaged and smelt of the mould although they had been washed. I am awaiting the decision from the repair team to see if they will admit liability.

I recently had a legal surveyor attend my property who took the temperature and took photos, and tried to advise me how I could stop the causes of mould. I found to be quite inappropriate as my house is always well ventilated and this mould and damp was bad throughout all seasons.

I think they need to stop blaming tenants and take responsibility for the state of the buildings and also liability for the ill health of their tenants, which arise from mould and damp.

Instead of threatening legal action against publicly funded Transport for London (TfL), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington,

Islington transport boss Claudia Webbe should save council-taxpayers’ money and work with TfL on ways permanently to reduce traffic along the hideously polluted, congested Holloway Road – responsibility for the environment is, after all, part of her political brief (“TfL in trouble over shock road closure”, Gazette, October 13).

Local politicians have long blamed TfL (responsible for the road) and outsiders using the A1 to excuse their own inaction and lack of leadership in dealing with the public-health and other problems this highway causes residents. Only 33 per cent of locals owns or has access to a car, but 100pc of those who live, work and shop along the A1 are affected by the stream of toxic (mainly diesel) fumes spewed out daily along its length.

The council claims the surcharge on diesel vehicles it introduced last year is “to protect residents from the health risks associated with emissions”. Diesel churns out four times more NO2 and 22 times more particulates – the tiny particles that cause irreversible reduced lung-capacity in children – than petrol. Instead of seeing diesel as a revenue-raiser – the better-off will pay the charge and the pollution continue – it would be more helpful if Cllr Webbe admitted there is no such thing as a clean vehicle. Only this week, the UK Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders acknowledged the latest pollution “defeat” software, now found in Vauxhall and Ford models among others, has been installed “to avoid potentially costly engine damage” – and is legal. When engine efficiency trumps public health, we’re in a mess, and fresh thinking is urgently required.

That must include challenging the Department of Transport’s pro-car ideology. Currently, the DfT insists predicted losses in road taxes resulting from reduced car-ownership be added to the capital costs of public transport.

And so Islington residents will continue to suffer some of the worst respiratory health in the country: in 2010/11, the borough had the highest hospitalisation rate for asthma in England, and our rate of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) is shockingly high.

This is where Cllr Webbe and her public-health colleague Cllr Burgess should work with TfL to a give a lead to improve life for residents and users of the Holloway Road that the temporary closure affords.

Here are a few starter suggestions:

• A reduction in the number of daytime buses (which are often almost empty);

• All buses to become ultra-low emission as a matter or urgency;

• Dedicated cycle routes in both directions;

• Restricting car-use via number-plate, with odds-and-evens days.

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