Ten years on, Highbury Corner roundabout work still hasn’t started
- Credit: Archant
“Highbury Corner plans welcomed” reads the Gazette headline. Changes to the roundabout are afoot. Campaigners battle to save a 100-year-old tree and urge people to support plans that would see the link between Upper Street and Holloway Road closed. The date? December 20, 2007.
Lots has changed in the last 10 years, but some things haven’t. One of them being work around Highbury Corner.
With the bottom of Holloway Road now closed until January 8, we took a look at why the plans agreed 10 years ago for the roundabout are still waiting to be carried out.
Lib Dem controlled Islington Council and Transport for London (TfL) launched a consultation at the end of 2007 offering three ideas for the transformation of the roundabout, which was built in 1960 but had failed to solve the huge problems with traffic congestion.
More than half of the people surveyed supported option A – which pleased campaign group Families of Highbury Corner. It would see the closure of the arm of the roundabout that links Upper Street and Holloway Road, something that is still in the pipeline to this day.
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But then the 2010 local elections happened.
Labour took control of the council chamber and within weeks had announced there was no money to fund works to Highbury Corner gyratory, Archway gyratory, or Old Street gyratory.
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Then-finance chief Cllr Richard Greening summed it up thus: “There’s a huge hole and all of the promises made by the previous council cannot be delivered.”
His colleague, environment boss Cllr Paul Smith, was less diplomatic. He said: “It was a Lib-Dem con job. From day one the money wasn’t there – and that’s before we even start losing money to central government.”
The Lib Dems hit back, saying the council’s finances were always in the public domain and claims of a £70million deficit were “disingenuous”.
Whoever you believe, the work never got started. After a few months of watching from the sidelines, TfL said it would stump up the cash.
“Another round of public consultation on the design proposals will take place,” the council optimistically predicted, “although the timing of the consultation is not yet known.
“It is expected that, subject to the results of the public consultation, construction works would begin in 2013-14.”
Wrong. Another stumbling block was that the Highbury Corner Post Office, then stationed in a temporary hut smack bang outside the entrance, was originally to be moved into a two-storey building on the corner of St Paul’s Road and Highbury Place. But in June 2010 mail bosses decided against the move and stopped the work in its tracks again.
So of the four stages of the planned work, only two have been done a decade on – upgrades to Highbury and Islington station.
But last year TfL announced that after another, more detailed, consultation it had decided to pedestrianise part of the junction after all, as well as making the roundabout two-way, introducing segregated cycle lanes and creating new public spaces.
Which is what’s happening now, right? Er, no. That’s not the reason it is closed. Work is being done to replace the bridge over the railway line. The work to the roundabout is next in line. But all road users and pedestrians know is that there’s always something slowing them down.
Twitter user Joe Dunthorne perhaps said it best: “I’ve finally accepted that Highbury Corner roadworks are, in fact, a durational art installation that explores how even the most patient and stoic human will, after years and f*****g years of suffering, succumb to deranged fury and now I feel much more relaxed about it.”
Highbury Corner, from Digswell Street to the roundabout, is shut in both directions until January 8. Bus routes 43, 271, 393 and N41 will be on diversion, the 263 will start and finish at the Nag’s Head, and the 277 will be on diversion eastbound from tomorrow (Fri) until January 2. Two bus stops – stop A northbound and stop B southbound – have been moved further up Holloway Road and cyclists have an alternative route via Liverpool Road signposted. Confusingly, shuttle buses are running up the A1 but some of the bus stops that serve them are marked “closed”.