Open spaces, LTNs, vouchers, vaccinations and neonatal care

The last tree standing at Dixon Clark Court (left)

The last tree standing at Dixon Clark Court (left) - Credit: Alison Gosper

Open spaces

James Dunnett, Barnsbury Road, Islington, writes:

Islington Council is building on the green spaces on its housing estates in order to gain a handful of new houses. 

The battle at Dixon Clark Court, Highbury Corner, has just been lost and the trees cut down – there will be a 400 per cent increase in built footprint on the site.

But there are other such schemes in the pipeline – many for which the council granted itself planning consent a few years ago before the pattern was widely appreciated. 


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Park View Estate is one, where the loss of attractive green spaces will be dramatic. The green spaces lost are often small, but certainly valued in an urban setting (the densest borough in London, and also the one with the least open space per head of population) and especially with their trees. 

Someone has got to get a grip on unrealistic demands for extra housing in areas already overcrowded.

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There is a distinction in these cases between open space and green space on the estates – often it is claimed that little green space is being lost because the new housing is all or mostly being built on parking – a smokescreen.

It is open space even if not green. But the parking, if not required, could easily and beneficially be converted into green space, and even as a paved space it contributes to the feeling of openness and light on these estates.

Thus the reduction in open space at Dixon Clark Court is 1,220 sq m, even if the (disputed) reduction in green space is about 270 sq m – or more credibly 600sq m depending on exactly what you classify as green space.

In its planning report to itself, the council claimed there was an actual increase in “designated garden amenity space” or alternatively in “usable green space” by dismissing almost all the existing green space as either not “designated” or as not “usable”.

These may seem like small areas but they affect critically the immediate environment of people’s everyday lives. This policy should be reversed.

Mini-Holland

Richard Smith, Highbury Hill, Highbury, writes:

The success of low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) in Waltham Forest is being used as a basis for Islington Council’s own scheme in Highbury.

Council leader, Richard Watts, recently told doubting residents to look up the evidence of long-term traffic reductions around Walthamstow.

But while he’s looking at traffic, he seems to have overlooked some of the key features of Waltham Forest’s scheme (quaintly called Mini-Holland), not least how it had a protracted period of consultation, including two weeks of door-to-door visits by council officers. Cllr Watts appears also to have completely ignored the collateral damage caused by the elimination of through-traffic.

A short walk from picturesque Walthamstow Village centre, at the heart of one LTN, is evidence of shops, once part of the community, now lost.

Elsewhere, windows that would once have displayed fruit and veg have been replaced by super chic shutters.

Perhaps Islington Council is hoping to create its own fashionable areas, Plimsoll Village perhaps or Highbury Hamlet. And maybe residents are eagerly anticipating their houses rising in value as a result.

But all without any consultation. And for the businesses that had been built on passing traffic yet now trapped within the Highbury West LTN, the future is bleak.

Their trade - like that of their Waltham Forest counterparts – is down. It’s touch and go if they will survive the spring, let alone an 18-month trial.

However, Cllr Watts continues to declare his pride in the council’s record of actively helping local businesses.

Perhaps he could provide evidence of how that fits with the crisis being forced on local businesses - and their employees - by LTNs.

Healthy Start vouchers for parents amid tough times

A woman picks up health supplements in a high street shop.

Healthy Start vouchers and free vitamins are available to parents of under-4s and mums-to-be on certain benefits - Credit: PA

David Brewerton, Islington Green Party, writes:

At a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet, it is obviously important that they access all available help.

One, admittedly modest, benefit that is going to waste is Healthy Start.

Under it, vouchers and free vitamins are available to parents of under 4s and mums-to-be on certain benefits or Universal Credit.

But a quarter of eligible parents are not claiming them, mostly because they’ve not heard of them.

Application forms can be downloaded online, but should also be available from midwives, health visitors and GPs. I called into a couple of GP surgeries to ask the receptionists if they offered the forms to likely candidates. I was met with blank looks. They hadn’t heard of them either.

Recently at my local greengrocer I saw a young dad, a preschool child clutching each hand, ask if they accepted the vouchers. The answer was simple if unhelpful: “We don’t take any vouchers.”
Fortunately, by then I had discovered that Tesco took them and was able to send the embarrassed and downcast dad in the right direction.

So who else takes them? The government website indicates fewer than half a dozen shops in my area accept them. Personal enquiries at ten of the small shops on our doorstep revealed only one that had heard of them.

Islington Council does highlight the scheme and provides information and links on the council website so people can apply, but I fear this is a benefit going to waste because of ignorance.

Please help spread the word to young parents and encourage your local shops to take the vouchers. 

Useful literature and application forms are available at healthystart.nhs.uk or from the Healthy Start helpline on 0345 607 6823 and asking them to send one by post.

Hard up parents need all the help they can get in these times, even if it is a few pounds per week.

Vaccination invite 

Roz Rosenblatt, London head, Diabetes UK, writes: 

Diabetes UK is urging people with diabetes to take up the coronavirus vaccine when offered it.

People with diabetes have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they develop coronavirus.

If you have diabetes, the best way to protect yourself against coronavirus is to avoid contact with the virus and get vaccinated.

With all adults with diabetes now being offered the vaccine, it’s incredibly important to take up your invitation – to help keep yourself, your family and your community safe.

The vaccines being offered are safe and will save lives, but if you have any concerns or would like more information, call Diabetes UK’s Helpline on 0345 123 2399 or visit diabetes.org.uk.

Sick babies

Caroline Lee-Davey, chief executive, Bliss, writes: 

When Bliss was founded in 1979 by a group of parents in London, our objective as a charity was set out “to support the life of babies in distress at birth”, and since our foundation, we have always sought to deliver this for all babies admitted to neonatal care, whether they were born prematurely or at full term.

Over the past 41 years, our reach has grown and we now work with many neonatal units in London and across the UK.

Having a baby in neonatal care can be incredibly distressing for families and Bliss offers emotional and practical support to empower families and equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to provide the best possible care to their baby, for however long they live and for however long their stay in neonatal care.

One in seven babies is born needing neonatal care in the UK, equating to 100,000 babies every year, but despite a common perception that neonatal care is only for babies born premature, more than 60 per cent of babies admitted to neonatal care are born at full term (at 37 weeks or more). Our research shows these parents often feel that their experience on the neonatal unit differs to the experiences of families with premature babies.

Many feel out of place, or that they don’t “belong” on the unit, as they are often the only family with a full term baby there at the time.

Some of those babies may only spend a few days on a unit, some much longer, but they all need the same specialist care as premature babies, and their parents’ practical and emotional needs should be treated with the same care and respect.

That is why we have launched Hidden Neonatal Journeys, our new campaign to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the parents of full-term but sick babies.

If you have had a neonatal experience with your full-term baby and been supported by Bliss, we would love to hear from you.

Sharing stories like yours helps Bliss to reach more parents in your local area, shows them that they are not alone, and also means we can continually improve the care provided to families.
Only with your support can Bliss continue to work to ensure every baby gets the best start in life for generations to come.

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