Islington Council declares war on hotchpotch conversions in Caledonian Road

A crackdown against landlords and developers who have crammed in flats “above, below and behind” shops is taking place in Caledonian Road

Officers from Islington Council have issued a flurry of enforcement notices against flats built without proper planning permission in and around Islington’s “The Cally” – and in one case, they have even ordered a block of flats to be pulled down.

The action has been taken after a spotlight was turned on Caledonian Road in BBC programme The Secret History of Our Streets – and after almost 200 people told a packed public meeting that they were fed up with the council’s lack of action.

Cllr Paul Convery, a Labour councillor for Caledonian ward, said: “It’s scandalous that landlords in the past 10 to 15 years can seem to get away with surreptitiously converting flats and then sitting tight in the hope that nobody notices. If you get away with it for four years, you are home and dry.

“It gets overcrowded and it’s bad for the neighbourhood. Large numbers of these properties are above, behind and below shops so they don’t have basic things like bin storage. Also, landlords making a fortune out of residential flats have little economic incentive to rent out the shops. Then people say there aren’t decent shops.”

Janine Dorling, a resident representative on Team Cally, a group of traders, residents and councillors working to rejuvenate the street’s tired shops, added: “I would prefer landlords to put their time, effort and money into improving the shopfronts.”

But landlord Andrew Panayi, who owns around 50 properties in one section of Caledonian Road, claims the council is killing off the regeneration that has taken place since the 1980s – when Caledonian Road was a hotbed of “vice and crime”.

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Mr Panayi, who arrived from Cyprus with �60 in 1969, said: “When I arrived every other shop was barricaded. When the shops weren’t let, the flats weren’t let either. So I started breaking the buildings into units.

“Once we brought people to live here, the shops could open because there was business. Because shopkeepers didn’t have to take on the flats as well, they could open the shops. I changed Caledonian Road.

“The council’s stance is killing Caledonian Road. They are trying to bring down the people who transformed Caledonian Road.”

Action taken by the council includes refusing to agree that 12 flats built around the former Topkapi Palace restaurant are lawful residential dwellings and ordering the demolition of the new five-storey Choudhury Mansions block, Pembroke Street, claiming it was not built in accordance to its planning permission. Landlords who have made money from renting out unauthorised flats could also be prosecuted.

Mr Panayi, who is behind the Topkapi Palace flats, believes it should have been granted retrospective approval because the flats have been in continuous occupation for around 10 years.