Gazette letters: Cycling, ‘little forest’, spitting, quiet streets and flu vaccinations

Cycling divides opinions. Picture: Tim Ireland/ PA

Cycling divides opinions. Picture: Tim Ireland/ PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Post readers this week.

Why we must embrace cycling

Steven Powell, Highbury Station Road, Isington, writes:

Your anonymous correspondent’s letter in this week’s Gazette (“Motorists made to feel like criminals”) is grotesque

The plans to promote walking and cycling (working with the Mayor of London) were published in Islington Labour’s 2018 Council election manifesto. Labour won 47 of the 48 seats. The other seat was won by the Greens who are of a similar opinion on the benefits to Islingtonians of promoting cycling and walking.

Granted, some cyclists do break the law by ignoring traffic signals and riding on the pavement. This should be tackled where it occurs, as should dangerous and wreckless driving and thoughtless parking.

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This isn’t easy, however, with the number of police radically reduced and massive cuts in the council budget imposed by the government – the Metropolitan Police Service has lost over two thousand officers since 2010 and government support is down by seventy percent (the council gets 30p for every pound it got in 2010). The council will have to make further drastic cuts in the next three years as things stand. This will be worse if the government reneges on its promise to fund the extra costs of Covid-19.

In this difficult situation we face the threat of drastic climate change caused by carbon emissions. This threatens death and abject poverty for billions. We also have a health crisis due to poor air quality.

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Ranting at lawless cyclists is just selfish twaddle. We change or we die. It really is that simple.

Consultation should be repeated and include ‘little forest’ threat

Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington, writes:

Attempting to justify the loss of the Highbury Corner “little forest” of seven mature trees, in a BBC Radio London Vanessa on Air interview, Friday, October 9, Islington housing boss Diarmaid Ward claimed the proposed development on Dixon Clark Court (DCC) is to be built “on a poorly used car park” and that “we consult with the entire borough”.

These weren’t the only alternative facts asserted by the elected member – “27 new council homes” was repeated three times – but they were his most egregious (Felling imminent, October 1).

While bigging up the extra greening on offer, Cllr Ward overlooked the large communal garden at the rear of the estate which will be lost if the scheme goes ahead, but as for who was consulted - the official planning document (para 8.12) is clear: just “296 adjoining and nearby properties in Dixon Cark Estate” - hardly the whole of Islington (pop 236,000), and not even that of St Mary’s ward, site of the scheme.

For eight days now, members of Islington Extinction Rebellion (XR) have been sleeping in the trees in an attempt to save them. Council leader Watts has responded, by email, offering to pay for more new trees in the vicinity of Dixon Clark Court instead of using money to remove the camp.

There is another way to resolve the matter: re-running the consultation. There are a number of reasons why this is desirable:

i) it’s unclear whether the consultation letter mentioned the loss of the mature trees – the planning application document has no appendix of same;

ii) DCC tenants were repeatedly promised in pre-application meetings that they would get “first dibs” on the site’s new council homes. There was no thought given to the possible conflict between lucky and unlucky residents?

iii) the consultation coincided with that on the huge infrastructure changes at Highbury Corner roundabout, meaning many nearby residents weren’t even aware of the proposals;

iv) the site is of borough-wide significance, sitting as it does at the junction of four main routes into the borough - even Vanessa Feltz spoke of “a loss to the area” of “the beautiful copse of trees”.

The DDC plan is a bad one, which would produce only an additional 25 council homes - the waiting-list is 14,000, we’re told. The council isn’t Tesco, and “every little helps” an inappropriate means of addressing Islington’s housing needs in the borough with the least green space per head of London’s population. The XR camp has drawn much-needed attention to the site and the need for a borough-wide public debate – a People’s Assembly – on housing? The town hall should be grateful for this.

The council executive wouldn’t lose face but gain respect if it halted its decision and re-ran the consultation. Residents would respect its results. The loss of the “little forest” cannot be undone.

Crackdown over spitting scourge

Sheila Miller, Moray Road, Islington, writes:

I am concerned about the prevalence of spitting in Islington; it’s particularly common in the part of the borough where I live.

This habit is not only disgusting but also dangerous, especially now, with the novel coronavirus at large among us (on top of the rise of an infectious form of TB in recent years).

When I was a child, there was a nationwide campaign against spitting in the street; it succeeded in more or less stopping it, but the habit later returned on a wide scale, and laws or byelaws against it are not being enforced.

To date, the council has taken no action to curb this habit that I know of – not even to the extent of putting up posters telling people not to. I have written to my local councillors about this, and Cllr Asima Shaikh has told me that she has raised the issue. However, there is no sign yet of any action being taken.

We also have laws against litter; although it’s not as dangerous as spitting, of course, I don’t see why people who pay what is a fairly high level of council tax should have to live surrounded by streets that look dirty and unpleasant, as those in this area often do.

Again, there are laws and theoretical fines, but they never seem to be enforced or imposed.

Half of car user trips under 3km

John Ackers, Highbury Grove, Islington, writes:

If indeed motorists are feeling like criminals as “disgusted Islington resident” wrote last week (October 15), then that’s no bad thing.

But the only group of motorists that should feel guilty are the able-bodied car owners making lifestyle choices to drive especially for short trips. According to TfL (Transport for London) Technical Note 14, 50 per cent of car trips in London are less than 3km.

If the short trippers switched mode of travel, those driving for a living wouldn’t need to sit in queues and could get on with their work.

Roadworks can bring tranquillity

K Fallon, Islington, full address supplied, writes:

Utility repairs and building works, which in Islington seem almost continuous, can make city living difficult and stressful. So when roadworks appeared at the end of our road three weeks ago my feelings were mixed.

However, this all changed when we began to awaken to the sound of birds and human voices rather than the rumble of cars, the roar of motorbikes and the churning sounds of taxi engines, which were now prevented from using our road as a cut-through.

Suddenly neighbours were dawdling in the road, rather than scurrying to avoid the speeding traffic. The road became a continuous space we could share rather than slivers of safe space divided by a stream of hurtling vehicles.

This week we learned that in the UK we have the lowest healthy lifespan in Western Europe and that our chronic failure to tackle obesity, inactivity and chronic air pollution are all important contributors, with obesity and dirty air also important risk factors for Covid-19.

We also know our children are among the unhappiest in the world, unable to play safely outdoors, often inactive and ferried by car for fear of road danger.

As I wake up to the noise of engines and to polluted air once more and as I see my neighbours once again hemmed in by motor traffic I cannot wait for Islington to prioritise the health and wellbeing of the majority of its residents rather than the motorised journeys of the few.

Don’t forget flu vaccinations

Siobhan Harrington, CEO, Whittington Health NHS Trust, writes:

As cases of Covid-19 begin to rise again, I wanted to write to let your readers know how important flu vaccinations are this year.

I want to thank our local community for the overwhelming support they have given us and for the sacrifices they have made over the last few months. The pandemic has made this year hard for all of us and I know many of you will have concerns about the challenges we face this winter.

Flu kills, on average, 11,000 people across England and hospitalises many more each year. This year, as we have know, is far from average. People who could become seriously ill with flu are also vulnerable of being seriously ill with Covid-19. Due to the potential impact of influenza and Covid-19 it’s now more important than ever that we act to protect ourselves and those around us from getting the flu.

The flu vaccination is the best protection for you and those around you which is why it is offered for free for those who need it. This year, the programme has been expanded and the free flu vaccine is being offered to a record 30 million people to help protect as many as possible from flu and ease pressure on our NHS.

I want to reassure all of you that the flu vaccine is safe and is given to millions of people every year. To help keep you, your family and the most vulnerable members of our community safe, I’m encouraging you to get your free annual flu jab as soon as you can. If you are eligible, you should be sent an invitation from your GP practice, either by letter or text, to book an appointment for your vaccine. Please try to accept when you are invited. You may also be offered this in your own home if you are caring for somebody who is vulnerable and housebound. Some people may choose to go to their local pharmacy for their jab, but you will still have to make an appointment just like at your GP surgery. Wherever you go for your appointment staff will wear the appropriate personal protective equipment to keep you safe.

This year more than ever it is really important to have your flu jab. Please act now to protect yourself, your loved ones and our NHS from being overwhelmed by winter flu.

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