Gazette letters: Housing, Brexit, safe cycling and walking

Deputy mayor for housing and residential development Sir James Murray, Peabody chairman Sir Bob Kers

Deputy mayor for housing and residential development Sir James Murray, Peabody chairman Sir Bob Kerslake, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

A pity the men in suits enjoying a photo-shoot atop the former Holloway prison failed to address the scandal of the decaying Pentonville Prison staff-accommodation, vacant in nearby south Islington for around 30 years – yes, 30 years (Holloway Prison: 1,000 homes to be built by Peabody after £42m loan from Sadiq Khan), writes Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington.

One of those pictured, deputy London mayor for housing, James Murray, was a ward councillor in the constituency for 10 years, six of them as the borough’s housing boss, and four of them under a national Labour government. What action did he take to bring this publicly owned property into use in a borough with a 14,000-long housing waiting-list?

Mr Murray’s political compatriot and former landlady, Emily Thornberry, has recently been making a noise about this grotesque state of affairs – 14 years after her election as Islington South MP.

Perhaps together they can now persuade Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to buy or lease the land from the Ministry of Justice – a Labour-government creation – under his Community Housing Fund. It launched in January this year, when he stated: “In London we have become far too reliant on large developers to build new housing. We need more homes to be built by councils and by communities themselves – and so I want to support more community-led housing projects that put London residents at the heart of the process”.

Some 600 “genuinely affordable homes” on the Holloway site must not be allowed to become a grand project overshadowing other smaller significant housing schemes.

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We represent teachers and students here in Islington devastated by Brexit, write Jean Irwin, teacher, Islington South and Finsbury; Nathaniel Shaughnessy, student, Islington North and Rebecca Shipp, student, Islington.

Make no mistake about it. Brexit is killing Britain’s education system. And that’s why we are fighting to stop it.

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Being part of Europe has given our families, proudly rooted in our local communities, the joy of possibilities beyond our borders. But now, our schools are hurt by funding cuts, with schools closing early and class sizes getting bigger. Here in London alone, over 1,000 schools have had ruthless cuts to funding in the last few years. And Brexit would only make our schools poorer.

Our universities here in London rely on generous EU research investment. In the last decade, the EU has invested over £200m into universities in London (and this doesn’t even include Erasmus funding), data released by Best for Britain and Tech for UK shows.

And our universities are held together by over 9,000 dedicated EU academic staff. But since the referendum, over 4,500 have left our region. Brexit is breaking our universities.

Together, we will not let our schools, colleges and universities become the forgotten victims of Brexit. Our education has been neglected for years by the political class. And Brexit is a step too far.

That’s why we urge our MPs here in Islington to realise the government’s deal would destroy our communities.

Brexit must be voted down, and the public must have the final say.

Islington Council is fully committed to encouraging more people to walk and cycle in the borough, and to do so in a safe environment, writes Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member, Environment and Transport, Islington Council.

The benefits of walking and cycling to people’s health and to wider society are clear, and we want to see more people gain from them.

We’ve set ourselves the ambitious target of 87 per cent of all trips in the borough to be made by foot, cycle or public transport by 2041 – up from 81pc today.

Part of achieving that ambition, and sharing the benefits of more active travel amongst local people, is about making our transport infrastructure safer.

That’s why I am delighted to have announced this week that Islington Council is moving forward with plans to transform the Old Street and Clerkenwell Road corridor into a Healthy Street.

This ambitious plan will see the corridor closed to through traffic, with priority given to walking, cycling and public transport, whilst avoiding traffic being diverted to local streets.

This project will improve safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, improve air quality and help make the area greener, healthier and a more attractive place to live, work, play and do business.

For too long these roads have seen collisions and injuries, some of them extremely serious ones.

This is unacceptable and the bold plans I am announcing will seek to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, deaths and serious injuries on these roads.

I look forward to bringing forward proposals for consultation this year, with work starting on the transformation of these roads in 2021.

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