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Readers' Letters

Readers' Letters

Gazette letters: Friend Street and Highbury Station

PUBLISHED: 08:30 22 September 2018

Neighbours on the St Mary's Path Estate last year. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Neighbours on the St Mary's Path Estate last year. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK

Polly Hancock

No one can doubt the need for vastly more homes in London, but I also note (Gazette) that Dame Alice Owen’s Educational Charity has cast some of its tenants adrift, claiming the need to empty flats so that an extra storey and more homes can be built in Friend Street and St John’s Street, writes Mike Crowson, Islington Green Party.

This does nothing to reassure tenants of the St Mary’s Path Estate, where the Islington and Shoreditch Housing Association (ISHA)wants to do exactly the same thing – raise the height of buildings to provide more homes, necessitating the emptying of some flats.

It is now too late to force Dame Alice Owen’s charity to do the right thing by its tenants. However, ISHA has not yet applied for planning permission.

Islington’s planning committee should not allow itself to be seduced by blanket promises of “more” homes without consideration of the details: we must, in the first place, expect it to insist there is no reduction of the number to be let at a social rent to those with previously “assured” tenancies, and that there must be a reasonable number of new homes also let at social rent. Secondly, it should not be beyond the wit of the council to make the proper treatment of relocated tenants a condition of planning consent.

We were shocked to read in last Thursday’s paper (“Vulnerable tenants stranded as charity landlord evicts them so it can build homes”, that a charity, the Dame Alice Owen Foundation, is evicting tenants because it wants to add a fourth storey to its buildings, write Islington Homes For All.

The fact that this is an educational charity, and that a disabled teacher is among those being evicted, is particularly disturbing. We are aware through our work that private tenants now have no security of tenure, and that landlords are not even required to provide a reason for eviction, but would have thought that a disabled woman with nowhere else to go would be shown some compassion by this charity.

There are many well known companies among the members of the Brewers Company, who the article states are the trustees for the charity – Carlsberg, Heineken, Budweiser and Greene King among them – and the Brewers Company itself does charitable work, also mainly in education.

We are not surprised to read that given the current scarcity of affordable housing in London, this part-time teacher has been advised to look elsewhere in the country for housing, though this would of course mean losing her job and support network. We do hope that all those involved will act in accordance with the name of the street [Friend Street] where these tenants live, and be a true friend to the vulnerable individuals under their roof.

Having read the letters page in the last edition of the Gazette, I wish to acknowledge the editorial comment on “what TfL thinks of us”, writes Mr J E Kirby, Clissold Crescent, Stoke Newington.

I feel TfL doesn’t give a damn about what people think. It says it will hold a consultation about cutting bus services (route 277), for instance, but has made up its mind that it is going to do it anyway regardless of how many people and local councils protest against it.

The other article that caught my eye was the letter from Barry J Page now living in Ontario, Canada, but originally from Islington, who says the old station building at Highbury and Islington could have been saved.

A good example of how station buildings have been saved is by looking at both King’s Cross and St Pancras. In King’s Cross’s example, now the clutter of buildings has been taken away from the front of the train shed with its double roof, it is almost as it was built all those years ago. It has been tastefully modified to cope with today’s needs but basically preserved as built.

The same with St Pancras station. This obviously had some alterations made when Eurostar trains were transferred there from Waterloo, mainly at the country end of the station, by extending platforms etc, but again the main train shed and hotel buildings have been restored to virtually how there were built originally. Indeed, part of the restoration insisted that where building was needed it had be done using the same style, size and colour of brickwork so it matched the old building perfectly.

Going back to the original station building at Highbury. Unfortunately, the idea of restoring and cleaning up of the building wasn’t thought of. Better to knock it down and replace it with what we have today.

No doubt today the building would have been listed and conserved rather than knocked down as so many buildings have in the name of progress.

I can understand if a building is structurally unsafe that a case could be made to knock it down but then it could also be stipulated that a building in a similar style be built in its place. I believe there has been at least one case where a building was knocked down without permission and the persons who did it were taken to court and required to rebuild the building brick by brick so it was exactly like it was [the Carlton Tavern in Kilburn – ed].

Another place I can remember being knocked down in the late ’50s or early ’60s was the Marlborough Theatre in Holloway Road which was almost opposite the present Marks & Spencer at Nag’s Head. If I remember rightly, its first tenant in the new building was the AA, which used it as offices. I can remember seeing the work being done as I used to go to school literally around the corner: Barnsbury Boys used the building in the V of Caledonian Road and Camden Road during the day as the upper school. At night, I think it was used by the North London College, as it was then.

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