Gazette letters: Holloway prison site, county lines, Bowie tribute, Dick Whittington, homelessness and ULEZ

Protestors marching on Holloway Prison in 2016 to demand the prison site is replaced by council hous

Protestors marching on Holloway Prison in 2016 to demand the prison site is replaced by council housing and community facilities. Picture: KEN MEARS - Credit: Archant

Whilst it was probably one of the more niche bits of Christmas TV, Islington residents might have been interested to watch prisons minister Rory Stewart being quizzed by the Justice Committee on December 11, writes Christopher Hignett, Mayton Street, Islington.

It seems he let slip how much the Holloway prison site might be worth.

During a discussion about whether the Prison and Probation Service should invest in refurbishing old prisons or close them and build new ones, Mr Stewart said that like-for-like replacement isn’t feasible.

This is because “in the best-case scenario” the most valuable prison sites, those in London, would only sell for about £75million, whereas the cost of building a new one is more than £200 million.

I wonder whether it might be a better idea to keep the site in public ownership to build much-needed social housing, rather than losing it forever to a private developer so that the government can realise its relatively modest capital value.

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Interesting to see Islington Council backslapping about their efforts on gangs and country lines when the truth is gangs are going nowhere nor their Fagin-types who groom kids, writes Michael McElligott, Amwell Street, Islington.

If the Fagin-types get nicked they become a gang asset in prison which is also awash with the drugs trade. The gang employee has merely changed location, while on the outside a new Fagin is promoted and business continues as there is a huge market.

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The warfare between gangs is based on sales and profits, they defend their areas in brutal fashion so the only way to hinder this social scourge is to take away the drugs market worth millions a week.

Portugal had huge social issues with drugs so changed their approach to helping the reliant instead of stigmatising them and guess what, a lot of their drug related issues disappeared and their society got healthier.

Tory policy on drugs is the real reason gangs do so well and flourish – no market, no gangs as there is no money in it. Tories are not addicted to a solution, but instead addicted to failure as they refuse to alter the methods which would design the gang problems out.

Loved the Bowie and Rainbow tribute by Shivani Kochar and Lucas Cumiskey, writes Nicola Baird, Islington Green.

I did this interview with a Beatles fan, Jackie Badger, who grew up in Islington. She shared her teen memories of the Beatles with real joy on Islington Faces – which now has more than 290 interviews with people who live or work in Islington – back in 2015. See:

I love the way people in Islington can look back on their nights out and suddenly realise they were making history.

Anybody with a penchant for English folklore and an interest in medieval history should take a trip to the little hamlet of Pauntley; Dick Whittington’s old hometown in the Leadon valley, writesWalter Roberts, Graham House, Brecknock Road Estate, Islington.

Visitors will be pleasantly surprised to find the lay of the land looks much the same as it probably did when a very young Dick Whittington bade a poignant farewell to his loved ones almost 700 years ago. His old home may not have survived the ravages of time but a small part of its timbered structure is deemed to be extant in the charmingly rustic cottage that has been built on its site.

Less than a stone’s throw away the ancient church of St John the Evangelist has miraculously survived for over a millennium. Its quaint structure hove into view as we made our approach in a rattling cab up a long and winding road past picturesque hill and dale on either side. This was the church Dick Whittington was baptised in and his forebears from a bygone era worshipped in. Its interior trappings have been impeccably maintained in all their archaic sublimity. A faint musty odour and a silence hauntingly elegiac cast its melancholic spell over everything.

Our sojourn in the Dovecote, an exquisite stone cottage next to the church proved extremely beneficial to our daughter Aria who has autism; not least because of the warm, therapeutic showers she was able to indulge in at her own convenience afforded by a walk in shower room, a facility we are sadly not equipped with to provide her with at home. This bucolic country retreat nestling on the fringes of the Cotswolds is an ideal bolthole for people with autism who enjoy solitude and long walks in the countryside. It is as close to Arcadia as one can imagine with even a statue of Pan in the grounds nearby, the irony of which was not lost on me as this was Dick’s old hometown.

I was proud to sign Islington Council up to the Homeless Friendly Campaign Pledge with council leader Richard Watts last week, writes Cllr Diarmaid Ward, executive member for housing and development, Islington Council.

The pledge commits the council to continue to work to meet the needs of homeless people in Islington, including providing training for staff and ensuring procedures are homeless friendly.

Islington Council has been innovative in its approach to helping homeless people in our borough, with the Housing First programme offering a secure home and wraparound support to people in a pilot scheme to enable them to address the challenges in their lives.

In council budget proposals published earlier this month we’ve committed to building on recent success tackling rough sleeping, by mainstreaming funding for specialist outreach officers and a co-ordinator to help people get their lives back on track and a roof over their head.

The Tory government has consistently failed to take action to support the most vulnerable in our society, with homelessness rising every year since 2010. Despite core government funding to the council being cut by 70 per cent since 2010, Islington Labour are working hard to protect the services that people rely on in our borough. It is unacceptable that anyone is forced to sleep on the streets, even for one night, and Islington Labour are committed to preventing homelessness, and helping homeless people.

Islington Labour’s bold 2018 manifesto pledged to tackle homelessness by providing the tailored support that homeless people need, and we are proud to reaffirm our commitment to help homeless people in Islington by signing up to the Homeless Friendly Pledge.

It is a scandal that air pollution is causing thousands of premature deaths each year in our capital and stunting the lung development of our children, writes Jennette Arnold OBE, London Assembly Member for the North East (covering Hackney, Islington and Waltham Forest).

This is why I am supporting the roll-out of the mayor’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ).

The ULEZ will have a hugely positive impact on our ability to tackle air pollution when it is introduced on April 8. In preparation for the ULEZ, it’s important local residents check their vehicle’s compliance with new emissions standards as this will determine whether they will be charged for driving in the zone. In taking action now, the mayor can ensure that London is firmly on the path to achieving zero emissions from road transport by 2050.

Access the vehicle checker

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