Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Dixon Clark Court trees, letters from Santa, leaf blowers and roads

PUBLISHED: 08:30 21 November 2020

Christmas lights at Islington Square. Picture: Andre Langlois

Christmas lights at Islington Square. Picture: Andre Langlois


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

Housing v green spaces: Both needed for borough

Ernestas Jegorovas-Armstrong, Islington Green Party, writes:

The pandemic has made us all more aware of how important green spaces and trees are, not just for the environment, but also for everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.

Islington is one of the least green boroughs in the UK and now the council is making the situation even worse at Dixon Clark Court.

In June 2019, Islington Council declared a climate emergency. By 2030, two thirds of existing homes are expected to be too hot for health and comfort due to the urban heat island effect in summer.

Islington residents need our mature trees to keep cool in ever hotter summers. Protection of our existing mature trees, as well as planting new ones to grow for the benefit of future communities, should therefore be a key plank of council policy.

I strongly support the building of new desperately-needed council homes, but I hope that in future the council will avoid schemes that involve the felling of trees or building over community gardens.

This is not just an isolated example of the council’s attitude to trees. In September 2020, I returned from teaching to find that a mature tree was cut down on the Elizabeth Kenny House Estate where I live.

We had no warning from the council. The tree not only made Islington’s air cleaner, provided valuable shade in ever hotter days, but also gave my mind and senses an immeasurable respite over the last few months.

Tree protesters

Cllr Dave Poyser, Hillrise ward, writes:

Let us rejoice that Donald Trump has left the White House and with him, we hope, fake news.

Can we get the facts clear on the “protest” at Highbury Roundabout (Dixon Clark Court)? There is a crying need for social housing, and as a local councillor in 2020 I hate having to say to families - sometimes with four children of different ages in a room, or sometimes with some sleeping in the kitchen - that we do not have social housing for them.

The council is doing all it can to build much-needed homes in the former car park around Dixon Clark Court.

Some trees will have to come down to do this but many more will be planted. Islington’s homeless charities and many others are supporting the building of much-needed new homes in the borough.

I have campaigned to improve the environment all my life and would not support any development that was not compatible with Islington Council’s much-praised environmental aims.

Removing these campers sadly costs public money and resources that could be so much better spent.

Window dressing

James Dunnett, Islington, full address supplied, writes:

Consultation on the council’s proposed building around Dixon Clark Court could hardly be described as having been transparent.

The council assured residents in July 2016 that they would have more green space than before, whilst the figures presented to the planning committee in 2018 showed a reduction of 317sqm.

The figure that was highlighted, however, was a supposed gain of 100sqm in a part of the green space the council decided would be “usable”.

Window dressing indeed!

‘Planning with a heart’

Scotia Luhrs, full address supplied, writes:

A beautiful development with mixed housing will be built around Dixon Clark Court, bringing much-needed homes to Islington.

I am a local resident and mother who generally admires the urban infill developments that turn disused land by the edge of train stations and other brownfield sites into thriving mini-neighbourhoods. So I am all for the Dixon Clark Court development.

Simultaneously, it is a great shame to lose mature trees by a busy, polluted road such as Highbury Corner and less than 400ft from Canonbury Primary School where children pass twice a day.

It is an incredible loss for the residents of Dixon Clark Court, and it’s an insane loss given London’s tremendous efforts to improve air quality by combatting toxicity levels and vehicle emissions.

You are in a position to be on the right side of history, that of putting environmental concerns first when it comes to developments, spearheading city planning with a truly long-term agenda.

Revisiting the consultation process and redesigning Dixon Clark Court will cost more than planting trees, this is true. But setting a precedent to take into consideration existing trees and green space with compelling benefits to the community will be your legacy to Islington (and to London as a whole).

“Planning with a heart” was the term in the Woodland Trust press release naming the Happy Man Tree the 2020 Tree of the Year.

You may also want to watch:

A precarious, tricky balancing act exists between building much-needed homes while preserving green space in London; I accept there will be sacrifices trying to get that balance right.

Though I have no experience of climate activism, the tremendous effort by the local Highbury community has been inspiring.

With so little time to become carbon-neutral, we must insist that housing developments take into consideration the existing trees and green spaces in our city.

William Blake

Meg Howarth, Ellington Street, Islington, writes:

“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all” - William Blake, letter to Rev John Trusler, 1799.

Wonder what our illustrious Bunhill Fields neighbour would make of the imminent loss of 57-year-old mature trees at Dixon Clark Court?

Letter from Santa

Sarah Lambley, NSPCC supporter fundraising manager for London, writes:

It has been a difficult year for Santa and the Elves.

Social distancing in the workshop has meant production has been tricky at times but they are still on target to have everything ready for Christmas Eve.

Amazingly, Santa has still found time to team up with us at the NSPCC to send personalised letters all the way from Lapland.

Each Letter from Santa is printed and posted directly to your child in a festive envelope. You can choose the background design and fill in your child’s personal information such as age, best friend’s name or particular achievements throughout the year.

All we ask in return is a donation to help us be there for children this Christmas and beyond.

£5 could buy art materials to help a child who has been abused to express their feelings when they can’t find the words. £4 could pay for one of our trained volunteer counsellors to answer a child’s call to Childline. In 2019/20, our volunteers handled an estimated 34,100 counselling sessions with children in London.

Without support, we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver our vital services which offer a lifeline to many children and young people whose lives have been affected by abuse.

Everything we do protects children today and prevents abuse tomorrow, to transform society for every childhood. But it’s only possible with your support.

To find out more at

Leaf blowers

Tim Sayer MBE, Battledean Road, Highbury, wrote to Islington Council:

I assume that the council’s leaf blowers are powered by petrol - certainly some noxious liquid.

The fumes are awful, both for the operative and members of the public who are passing. And the noise (I believe the harm that noise pollution causes is grossly underestimated) is almost intolerable.

Would the council consider scrapping these vile machines, please?

Roads and driving

Sian Berry, co-leader of the Green Party and candidate for mayor, writes:

I welcome the news that Rishi Sunak is considering action to create smart incentives to reduce growing traffic.

I have been pushing for years for London to introduce a smart, fair road pricing scheme to replace the blunt daily congestion charge.

This could be done well or very badly and the government’s recent record on delivering new initiatives really concerns me.

One major issue is that one size will not fit all, so we must ensure that local areas have control over the smart levers and share in the revenue.

Unless the process is devolved there is a very real threat that all the funds would go to the treasury.

Every penny raised must go to cities and regions so they can improve and invest in public transport and alternatives to driving, and help reduce the need to travel too with more public services within easy reach.

And for a smart road pricing scheme to work, privacy must be baked in from the start. This means not collecting any more data than is needed, not relying on promises that our privacy will be protected which will erode over time.

Above all, the government should not be making traffic worse, which is another reason Grant Shapps giving the go ahead for the Stonehenge road tunnel was the wrong decision.

We are in a climate and ecological emergency and should be investing in alternatives to driving. The £27 billion road-building budget is the right source for funding this, and all major road-building schemes should be cancelled now.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Islington Gazette. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Islington Gazette