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Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Holloway Prison site, GLL, housing, social distancing, NHS and respect parks.

PUBLISHED: 08:30 23 May 2020

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA

The former Holloway Prison site. Picture: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

In the coming weeks the developer of the Holloway Prison site, Peabody, will put out a consultation asking for the community’s thoughts on their draft master plan – it’s only a draft and the community can still have our say, writes Will McMahon, Community Plan for Holloway.

Developing such a large area is an amazing chance for some of our community’s needs to be met – including social housing, more open green space and a Women’s Building. All to the highest of environmental standards.

But Peabody will only know what the community wants to see if we all tell them. This is what the consultation is all about. It will be open for three weeks – let’s demonstrate how important an issue this is byas many of us as possible taking this opportunity to respond.

In workshops planned for the summer Peabody will report what people have said they would like to see, and set out their response.

Before the consultation is launched you might want to take a look at their new website – hollowayprisonconsultation.co.uk

It is up to all of us to get involved in the consultation if we want the best possible outcome for the community.

Before Islington Council thinks of bailing out its leisure contractor GLL, to the tune of £1.2 million and upwards, it needs to ask why Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) was not insured for a pandemic (Report May 14, page 2), writes Leo Chapman, Dufferin Street, Islington.

Wimbledon was, and the All England Lawn Tennis club will be reimbursed £114 million. So will the Royal and Ancient Golf Club be compensated for the also-cancelled British Open with a so far undisclosed sum.

In fact it should think about taking the contract back in-house or get another contractor rather than allowing a burden of millions of pounds that could go on for years, falling on already cash-strapped Islington’s council taxpayers. Why should we pay for GLL management’s failings?

With 54 million people visiting annually its numerous gyms, pools and libraries it was not as though GLL was not at risk of attack by the invisible armies of viruses, bacteria and other microbes. There was warning that another pandemic like influenza after World War I was bound to come.

HIV that has killed millions and, particularly the SARS epidemic of 2003, warned Wimbledon and the Royal and Ancient. Populous South Korea and Taiwan also have had very low Covid-19 deaths because they took lessons from SARS.

GLL’s directors and management failed to insure for pandemic risk although the insurance cover was known and available.

Guilelessly it said: “GLL operates a risk register to record any potential risk the society may face. The risk register is a working document that is updated on an ongoing basis with mitigating strategies as necessary. The register is reviewed by the Audit Sub-Committee every quarter,” according to the latest published GLL annual report. The audit sub-committee manages the risk register, the report said.

The Committee of Management: “... recognise the need for the level of financial reserves that will shield the Society from the possibility of adverse unforeseen circumstances,” the report said.

Change housing system after virus

An Islington resident, full name and address supplied, writes:

I am local resident and a housing officer in an inner city London borough and the letter last week on “Empty Homes” struck a chord (May 14, 2020, Islington Gazette).

On March 27 the government instructed homelessness managers and rough sleeping teams to accommodate the homeless within 72 hours. Given that most homeless offices had closed their doors at 4pm until the Monday morning this was never achievable.

The closure of day centres and hostels during lockdown has increased daily living problems for the homeless and in some cases reduced links to services. Hotels and B&Bs are run by reception staff not specialist workers – placing people with and indeed without complex needs into this type of accommodation guarantees high levels of abandonment and evictions.From the onset there has been a lack of clarity and an ad-hoc approach in communicating provision of emergency accommodation from both the government and sadly within some local authorities. The indications are that Islington council moved quickly on this.

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It took weeks after March 27 before a clear instruction was issued to ignore procedures which normally deny whole swathes of the population access access to emergency accommodation. Many people are accommodated for the duration of the lockdown only - where do they go afterwards? This is an ideal opportunity for Housing Associations to offer their empty properties to the council instead of selling them off. Indeed, the barriers to councils requisitioning empty properties should be lifted forthwith.

The pandemic has provided respite for some single and childless couples but their only route is into the Private Sector, often out of borough and into long term poverty yet these are the same people losing their jobs as agency workers or risking their lives as key workers on low pay, zero contract hours. We cannot go back to the same old housing crisis – something has to change.

Take action over rule breakers

I am an older resident and my flat overlooks Highbury Fields, Max Rochlin, Highbury East, wrote to Islington Council.

Young men on the Fields are playing football in a group of about six and they are not social distancing. There are many groups of people congregating there as I write this letter and it’s extremely busy because of the warm weather.

People in this area do not stay at home except for exercising and shopping essentials. My living room overlooks Highbury Terrace Mews and as this private road was gravelled recently there are endless people being loud and passing by most of the day. This doesn’t quiet down until about 10pm every evening. I’m concerned as the virus is not going away soon and people who don’t care can make the pandemic worse. I trust you can take action.

As rates of new Covid-19 infections begin to fall I wanted to write to provide some reassurances about using NHS services, writes Siobhan Harrington, chief executive, Whittington Health NHS Trust.

I also want to thank our local community for their support and understanding over the past eight weeks. To concentrate on our response to the pandemic we took the decision to suspend all but the most urgent operations and treatments. We also changed the way that many of our services work to ensure that we could provide services such as outpatient appointments safely. This included transferring over 20,000 face-to-face outpatient appointments to take place over the phone.

We are now looking at how we can begin to restart some services and are working with NHS organisations across North Central London to ensure that patients who need us can receive the safest care as soon as possible. We continue to innovate how our services are provided, for example some outpatients are now able to choose to have a video appointment.

Whilst staying at home whenever possible remains vital, we understand that some people are avoiding using NHS services such emergency departments and GP surgeries when they are unwell and not attending pre-booked treatment and important face to face appointments. Some people may worry about being a burden at a busy time and others may be scared that they may catch Covid-19.

I want to take this opportunity to reassure everyone that across your local NHS we have put in place a number of safeguards to ensure that all of our patients and colleagues are kept safe. So whilst I thank you for staying at home, your NHS is still here for you and if you need medical advice or treatment visit nhs.uk, call NHS 111 or your GP (or visit their website to book an appointment) or come to our Emergency Department if you need to. Don’t wait: it is safe to see us, when you need us.

Mark Camley, executive director, Parks and Venues, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Shaun Dawson, chief executive, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Tony Leach, chief executive, Parks for London; Andrew Scattergood, chief executive, The Royal Parks; Richard Parry, chief executive, Canal & River Trust and Colin Buttery, director, Open Spaces Department, City of London, write:

As those responsible for some of London’s key open spaces we are not surprised that during these difficult times our parks, green spaces, towpaths and riversides have become a vital part of our national response to coronavirus.

When for many years London’s world-beating open spaces have been taken for granted, it is the challenges of a pandemic which have made many people realise just how precious our open spaces are for the millions who live in the capital.

We wrote to Londoners at the start of April asking that you do everything you can to help us keep the spaces open. It has not been easy, but the vast majority of those going out and about have followed the rules and played their part – along with our dedicated staff – in making sure that there have been places where people can go out for their daily exercise.

Now we have reached a new phase and from today some elements of what you can do outside will change. However our message remains the same – please respect any regulations in place at the open spaces you visit – we can only keep our parks and green spaces open if you continue to help us.

Social distancing remains – keep two metres apart from people outside your household. Sitting outside is allowed – but again keeping your distance from those not in your household. It might be that on occasions those working hard to keep these spaces open will ask people to move on as areas are getting too crowded, please respect that and be kind in your response as they are only doing their job to keep open spaces safe. We ask you to support us.

Try to stay local if you can. If you do need to travel to enjoy open space then consider if it is absolutely necessary, it could put unmanageable pressure on our car parks and public transport if sensible choices are not made. Finally, at the places you visit look out for information on what facilities are open and closed and how they should be used, such as those that might allow limited sports activities. It is not difficult to help us – it is a question of being alert and sensible, looking out for information, listening to advice and doing the usual responsible things such as taking your litter home and keeping your dog under control. Our teams are working hard because we know how important it is for everyone that the great outdoors is accessible to everyone in London – and we are proud to be part of that effort.

For more information on using London’s open spaces please visit: london.gov.uk/coronavirus/social-distancing-guidance/london-parks-and-green-spaces-covid-19-guidance.


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