Published: 29 June, 2012
• I WELCOME the lively debate over recent weeks on the provision of affordable housing in Islington but fear it has generated more heat than light.
It is understandable that residents are concerned about the council’s housing plans and, of course, residents must be thoroughly consulted on them.
When the Labour council was elected in 2010, its major pledge was to build thousands of new affordable homes for Islington people.
Since being elected in 1983 Jeremy Corbyn, our Labour MP, has constantly raised in Parliament the shortage of housing in Islington.
Now the Labour council is actually addressing the pain and suffering of the 13,000 people on its housing waiting list.
Some of those who have written clearly fail to see there is a bigger picture here, and a greater good to be achieved in housing those less fortunate than themselves.
What the letters to the Tribune also highlight, however, is the need for much more consultation with residents on the council’s housing plans.
This will mean looking holistically and thoroughly at associated amenities, including community facilities, education provision and green spaces.
The attacks made on the Islington Fairness Commission are both unnecessary and unwarranted.
The Labour council has now been accredited for paying the London Living Wage to its employees and contractors.
And the council’s housing plans are a major plank of its fairness agenda.
Could I also urge readers, as the leader of the council Catherine West has already done (We can rise to this challenge by working together, June 22), to work with the council on the details of the affordable housing that is so desperately needed by 13,000 people in our borough.
Mayton Street, N7
• THE preamble to the council papers on the development at King Square, Finsbury, include a salient reality behind the recent spate of council new-build plans: “In order to meet the current London Plan housing target, Islington will need to deliver 17,400 homes over a 15-year period.”
In other words Islington has committed itself to adding another 50 per cent of its current council estates.
Admittedly, this won’t all be done by the council or necessarily on council land.
Still, if you look at an estate and try to imagine how you could fit in another half again you may get some idea of the impending onslaught.
If you think the current debate is only about Holly Park and King Square, then think again.
Over the next 15 years every scrap of council land is going to be up for grabs.
Don’t forget that as much as 50 per cent of new build will be for private sale.
To make matters worse, that percentage may be higher where private sales are also expected to provide income to replace schools or facilities which will be knocked down to make way for the new housing.
A recent correspondent from Holly Park made it clear that 39 of the new flats will be one- and two-bedroom.
Despite Catherine West’s emotive call to rehouse overcrowded families, the plans for Holly Park only offer four family-sized flats.
One has to wonder if we are not being subjected to cynical emotional blackmail to support schemes which, in reality, offer more to the developer and the private buyer than the disadvantaged.
Were the council to cut its cloth to suit its pocket we may find that residents would accept smaller, less disruptive schemes.
This may actually house more overcrowded families and cause residents less disruption and loss of amenities.
In the meantime, let’s talk about knocking down… whoops, freeing up, the town hall to make way for new housing.
Highbury New Park, N5
• ISLINGTON Council has lost the plot on housing. Not only is there a total failure to enforce planning regulations on a landlord whose philosophy is to “build first and ask for permission later”, but the council itself behaves in a similar thoughtless, non-consultative, reckless way in its approach to building homes.
There is no arguing that homes are desperately needed, but the council needs to think its policy through before causing irreversible damage
to estates, schools, sports grounds and green spaces. It should ask what is truly affordable and acceptable for families.
Islington Green Party