Above: Dr David Starkey (left) and Clare Palmer
Published: 20 April, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
CONTROVERSIAL historian Dr David Starkey accused Islington Council this week of an “extraordinary and confused” plan to build a care home partly on open land close to where he lives in Highbury.
Dr Starkey said he was not against the two-storey scheme for 13 flats for people with learning difficulties at Leigh Road, but he objected to the way it would “obliterate” open townscape views from his and other residents’ homes.
The council’s planning committee approved a scheme on Tuesday night to demolish former care home buildings and replace them with a new building.
It will mean demolishing not just old buildings on the site but also a wildlife garden that backs onto Dr Starkey’s home.
Residents have complained about possible loss of light to their homes and loss of footpaths and open space.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr Starkey said he was “deeply worried” that Islington planning officers appeared to be supporting the application to build in the Highbury Fields Conservation Area rather than just stating the facts of the case.
“The officers even managed to get my address wrong in their written report,” he added.
Dr Starkey, who has lived in the borough for almost 30 years, said it appeared that there was “one rule for residents and one for Islington Council”.
He added: “The site was regarded as so important in the past that any proposed developments nearby – including putting up a tiny staircase, for example – were refused by the council on the grounds that they would interfere with a view. Now the council themselves want to build on it.”
Speaking after the meeting, Dr Starkey said that the officer’s report did not address any of the main issues and he would consider launching an appeal. “The application was simply waved through. There isn’t even a programme to manage and protect adjacent trees,” he said.
However, disabled campaigner Clare Palmer was very much in favour of the scheme.
“Personally I’m happy with the design and I do not believe it will be detrimental to the area,” she said. “I hope Dr Starkey will come and visit it when it is up and running.”
Ms Palmer, who chairs the Islington Disabled Consultative Group, attended the planning meeting but was not given an opportunity to speak. She also lives nearby the site and her disabled daughter Elinor attended the previous care centre before it closed three years ago.
She added: “This is a desperately needed facility where people with learning difficulties will have their own independent living accommodation with support from an on site warden. It will be good quality accommodation but most of all it will be right in the heart of Islington. So many of our members who are getting on in years have to travel miles to be with their loved ones.”