People Friendly Streets, Universal Basic Income, incinerator and Holloway Prison site

A barn owl during a display flight at the International Centre for Birds of Prey, Newent, Gloucester

A pair of barn owls were once reported to live in Canonbury Square - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

People Friendly Streets benefit our animals too

Simon Izod, Islington, full address supplied, writes:
Last week as I was walking along the newly implemented People Friendly Streets in Canonbury West, I saw a cat cross a road, which until recently was dominated by motor traffic. I thought about how many cats’ lives have ended unnecessarily early due to the dangerous road conditions they have confronted. 
It led me to realise that as someone who has been campaigning for People Friendly Streets, I have had in mind the benefits to human beings and been forgetting the benefits to animals and plants.
Since I was a child, I have had a love for birds. They have been friends to me wherever I have lived or travelled, raising my spirits through their unexpected appearances or with their soulful song. Living in Islington I have admired how certain species such as goldfinches, greater spotted woodpeckers and wrens survive here seemingly against all the odds. Birds have been a lifeline for me during this difficult year, bringing a gentle cheer to my heart whenever I hear them sing. 
During the first lockdown I felt electrified to hear friends and neighbours feeling the same joy I experience, as with the absence of the drowning traffic noise they became aware for the first time of the birdsong.
So with all of this in mind I decided to research the impact air pollution has on our birdlife in London. As we know from the infamous “canary in the coal mine” metaphor, birds are particularly susceptible to pollution. Birds are exposed to more particulate matter (PM) than humans because they have a higher breathing rate and spend more time in the open air. They suffer from the same respiratory diseases and cancers that humans experience from air pollution. Studies in the US have shown that the accumulation of nitrogen oxides – one of the main pollutants from diesel cars – causes soil and water to become more acidic. Soil and water acidification negatively affect the nutritional values of birds’ food sources, leading to smaller egg clutch sizes. The noise of motor traffic also means that birds struggle to hear each other’s alarm calls and mating songs.
So despite appreciating all the birds I see and love in my nearby surroundings, I know the bird habitat here in Islington could be far richer. About five years ago some elderly residents at Canonbury Square recounted how a pair of barn owls used to live there in the 1970s. When I heard that I felt so sad that our traffic dominated streets have meant that such wonderful birds no longer live here, but it also raised hope of the prospect of what might be possible. I know the importance of the role birds have had for my mental health and their potential to heal, so in this current time of pandemic and huge political and economic uncertainty their presence will be vital for many people. I’m excited at the prospect that species that used to live in our borough such as the barn owl could return as a result of the People Friendly Streets scheme. As the name of the scheme suggests, this would be an unintended consequence, but in my mind a far more important one than most realise. Although that might be just putting our human interests first; let us be hopeful that they will return for their own sake and beauty.
For more information about People Friendly Streets see barnsburystmarys2020.ghost.io

Priorities should focus on needy

Robert Phillips, Barnsbury, full address supplied, writes: 
We live in times of unprecedented crisis - from Public Health to the Climate Emergency.
The Covid pandemic started as a health crisis; has rapidly become an economic crisis; and is now an on-going social crisis.
It is therefore disappointing to see council leader Richard Watts and Cllr Rowena Champion focusing all efforts on pro-cycling and Low Traffic Neighbourhood initiatives, while thousands in the borough remain hungry, vulnerable and unsupported.
This is a huge distortion of values and priorities. Citizens would be better served by those willing to address the needs of the many, not the ideology of the few.

Universal Basic Income Boost

Caroline Russell, Green Party, Londonwide Assembly member, writes:
Last week, I was proud that Islington Council passed my motion to call on the government for a trial of Universal Basic Income, making us the first borough in London to do so. 
A Universal Basic Income is a regular payment to every citizen from the government to help cover the essentials in life, regardless of your employment status. It’s an idea whose time has come.
As we build back from this pandemic, it makes sense to give people a non means tested payment providing the security of an economic floor below which they cannot fall. Not a safety net with holes, but a solid foundation upon which each and every person can stand and build from together. 
I hope that Labour members of the London Assembly will now take inspiration from their colleagues at a local level here in Islington and back a trial of Universal Basic Income for Londoners.


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Incinerator plan should be blocked

Tania, XR Zero Waste, writes:
If north London’s seven councils remain committed to building a £1.2 billion incinerator complex in Edmonton, they will effectively lock in incineration overcapacity—not only for the seven boroughs, but also for the capital itself. Indeed, the plant will account for roughly two-thirds of the “surplus capacity of approximately 950,000 tonnes” forecast by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
One might reasonably ask: How are the councils justifying the decision to lock in overcapacity? But perhaps a more appropriate question is: How are they justifying building an incinerator during a climate emergency?
If built, the new incinerator will be 30 per cent larger than the old one, even though the amount of waste produced by north London has been declining for more than five years. Since the seven councils will be contractually obligated to keep the incinerator running at capacity, the consequences of this project are beyond dispute.
First, the Edmonton incinerator will needlessly and unjustifiably belch out roughly 700,000 tonnes of CO2 per year (half of which comes from plastics/fossil fuels). These greenhouse gases, which are not accounted for in the London Plan, are equivalent to adding another 250,000 diesel cars onto our roads—for decades.
Second, the seven councils will undoubtedly continue to send recyclable materials to be incinerated, just as they will continue to miss recycling targets. At the moment, up to 85pc of the waste we burn in north London could actually be recycled, and our 30pc recycling rate falls well short of the mayor’s 50pc target for 2020, jeopardising the 65pc target for 2030. Yet boosting recycling rates need not be difficult, as Wales recently demonstrated.
Third, the councils will need to import waste into north London, adding to waste transport emissions and exacerbating road congestion.
Fourth, more incineration capacity will inevitably translate into an increase in adverse health impacts from various forms of pollution, such as ultra-fine particulate matter in the air we breathe and mercury in our water.
In the absence of joined-up thinking across the city, north London’s councils could grab this bull by the horns. They could withdraw support for the incinerator as a matter of priority, before a construction firm is selected. Doing so would free them up to invest in circular economy infrastructure that would help the boroughs meet recycling targets, slash CO2 emissions, reduce pollution, improve residents’ health, create green jobs, and live up to stated climate ambitions. What’s stopping them?

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA

Islington Homes for All want 60 per cent council-rent homes built on the site of Holloway Prison - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

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Plea to increase council homes

Andy Bain and Morag Gillie, co-chairs, Islington Homes for All, write:
Islington Homes for All notes that Peabody now agrees to adhere to its original undertaking to provide 42 per cent homes for council-equivalent rents on the former Holloway Prison site. 
However, we question why the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, is giving Peabody, whose surplus in 2019 was 148m, yet another grant of public money of an unknown amount on top of the £39.8m already gifted and the £41.6m loan. In addition to which, Peabody will be taking rich pickings from the 40pc luxury homes to be sold on the site.
We maintain also that there is nothing “genuinely affordable” about the planned 18pc of “intermediate” homes – certainly not for the 14,000 households on Islington’s housing list. Around 9pc of these are earmarked for shared ownership, which is fraught with financial pitfalls, even for those households (earning up to £90,000) for whom the scheme is intended – as we saw in the recent BBC’s Panorama and as described on the HomeOwners Alliance’s website.
Finally, we would point out that this year Peabody has put up for auction 12 much-needed Islington homes originally bought in the 1970s and ’80s with substantial grants of public money and then let at social rents.
Over the years, Peabody has benefited massively from public money. For this reason, Islington Homes for All confirms its call for 60pc, rather than 42pc homes at council-equivalent rents on the former prison site.
It would have been far more beneficial if the GLA had bought the prison site for Islington Council. But very least Peabody can do now is to raise the number of council-rent homes to 60pc.

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