Gazette letters: Holloway Prison site and People Friendly Streets

Screen on the Green reopened after lockdown with showings of Christopher Nolan's chronologically pla

Screen on the Green reopened after lockdown with showings of Christopher Nolan's chronologically playful Tenet - and the nicely punned: "It's about time." Picture : André Langlois - Credit: André Langlois

Islington Homes For All (IHFA) has been campaigning since 2016 for the social housing desperately needed and wanted by Islington residents on the Holloway Prison site, writes Andy Bain, Islington Homes For All, Finsbury Park.

In 2018 we gained 5,000 signatures on a petition calling on the London mayor to buy the land and build public housing which would help reduce Islington’s 14,000 housing waiting list.

Peabody Housing Association bought the site, supported by a loan from the London Mayor (the terms of which he will not reveal) and initially agreed that 60 per cent of homes on the site would be for ‘affordable’, of which 42pc of the total would be for social rent. By social rent, Islington Council means rents equivalent to council rents. However, Peabody later interpreted ‘social’ to include the wider definition of ‘affordable’ including the London Affordable Rent, which is considerably more expensive.

Peabody initially proposed 1,000 homes, 50 more than Islington Council’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD). It is not usual with such large projects for developers to significantly raise the numbers of homes to be built once the planning permission has been achieved. This would mean a significant raising of their profits and result in higher buildings or smaller and poorer-quality homes, or a combination of both. Peabody is already referring to 1,050 and we can expect them to go for more if they can get away with it.

All aspects of the development were to have been consulted on with the local community but IHFA and other community organisations have been unhappy with the extent of consultation. What has taken place has been cursory, avoiding the important issues concerning tenures, the types and quality of housing offered. Even allowing for Covid, the input local people have been able to have has been minimal and the public knowledge of what Peabody plans to do is almost zero.

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IHFA reflects the views it has gained from local people in its demands that people need homes at fair rents and for permanent security of tenure, not one or the other. We have publicised the need to maximise the percentage and in view of the current housing crisis we are calling for 60pc of homes being at the equivalent to council rents. Peabody is keeping its powder dry on the issue of rents and tenures but this should become public knowledge before the planning permission is granted.

IHFA challenged Peabody on its poor consultation in July and some actions to improve were taken immediately. Peabody also promised a statement of community involvement to accompany the planning application.

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In order to give Peabody a push, on Saturday afternoon, September 12, from 1pm, several local organisations are organising a socially distanced carnival style pavement protest at both the prison entrance and nearby Nags Head. Please come along and join the fun. We are asking people to bring instruments, whistles, balloons, posters and chalk for kids to draw what they want to see on the site.

Data shows that in Waltham Forest where Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) were implemented in 2015, response times have reduced by 18 seconds – the fire engines are arriving more quickly than before, writes Lucy Facer, Barnsbury and St Marys neighbourhood group.

This real-world evidence should dispel the concerns expressed in your article published August 20.

In 2015, emergency service average response times were 05.12 but by 2019 response times had reduced significantly to 04.54. The conclusion to draw from this is that filters will not hinder emergency services.

Whilst it is essential that the council continue to liaise with all emergency services to ensure the schemes do not hinder response, the reduction in traffic created by People Friendly Streets will enable our emergency services to continue to provide rapid responses.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are supported by many public health professionals and organisations. In an open letter to Cllr Richard Watts and Cllr Rowena Champion, Professor Charles Knight, chief executive of St Bartholomew’s Hospital which serves the medical needs of many Islington residents, called for more action to be taken. He asks Islington Council to “consider closing some streets and junctions to through traffic, implementing low traffic neighbourhoods – this will ensure everyone has access to street space areas to walk, scoot, cycle and use wheelchairs without the blight of heavy traffic”.

The chief executive also sites the importance of active travel, which Low Traffic Neighbourhoods encourage, to reduce rates of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. This is also supported by WHO and Public Health England.

Air pollution, caused mainly by vehicles, has a detrimental effect on our health, in addition to contributing to chronic issues such as respiratory conditions, heart disease, diabetes and strokes, Dr Ian Mudway from Kings College highlights air pollution contributes to many subclinical health conditions that appear later in life.

People Friendly Streets are an opportunity to reduce the chronic effects of air pollution on our health and encourage active travel to have a positive impact on wellbeing and increase life expectancy for many residents.

The global trend of spreading misinformation and outright lies is bleeding into our local debate on People Friendly Streets, with blank statements saying “loads of consultation” and blank statements saying “unconstitutional lack of consultation”, writes Fran Sepulveda, member of Barnsbury and St Mary’s Neighbourhood Group, full address supplied.

Do any of us care about the truth any more? And what are the facts?

Let’s look at the Clerkenwell People Friendly Streets announced last week. This was reported as being “imposed without consultation”. Really? Is our council really that daft? Actually, there was a full and lengthy public consultation back in 2017, with 71 per cent in favour of the traffic and access measures. And the current Islington Councillors were voted in on the explicit promise that they would close streets outside schools, build new protected cycle routes and ban HGVs on residential roads. Plus, the government has instructed councils to re-allocate road space to benefit pedestrian, mobility and cycle traffic, with an explicit direction to introduce modal filters.

So, following a proper and constitutional review of what people want, the council is finally putting People Friendly Streets into Clerkenwell. Let’s cheer and dance! We’re getting what we wanted!

Phew. So what are the council now doing in St Peter’s, Canonbury East, Canonbury West, and other planned areas? Well, operating with restricted resources, and under fire and criticism, they are doing what they were always supposed to do - they are listening to us again. They set up a feedback website on Commonplace in May 2020, inviting everyone to put open-ended comments on a map of all the streets that we live and work in. As at today (August 30) they have seen over 4,700 comments from people who live and work in, and commute through, our area. The council listened to the comments and then lawfully and constitutionally implemented the measures required of them by London and UK regulation and guidance, in keeping with local feedback, in our borough. They continue to listen to supporters and non-supporters alike, they continue to listen to feedback from police, fire and ambulance services, and they continue to make themselves available for lively Q&A via zoom meetings. They proactively reached out to the protesters at Town Hall to listen to those concerns. So the council is in fact continually listening, consulting, adapting. Looking at facts. Driving at the truth. Finding the best solution to post-Covid road chaos.

And it turns out that survey after survey, story after story, show that People Friendly Streets, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, mini-Hollands, or whatever you want to call them, ultimately reduce traffic (and not just in residential streets, in main streets too), improve emergency response times, make our communities safer, increase footfall to local businesses, improve air quality, increase lifespan. People Friendly Streets - bring ‘em on.

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