Left: Peter Owen and Cllr James Murray, and right, the former surgery in Durham Road
Published: 10 August, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
THE row over plans to build homes on the car parks at two council estates in Islington took a new turn this week after tenants in other parts of the borough expressed approval for similar schemes where they live.
Work has already started at Vaudeville Court in Finsbury Park – site of the former Finsbury Park Empire theatre – where residents actually suggested that Islington Council build on their car park that had become a vandalised “no-go area”.
Islington is in desperate need of new housing, and under the leadership of Labour councillor Catherine West and despite the downturn in the economy, the council have vowed to build 2,000 new homes by 2015.
In another area at Otley House, Highbury, the council has just completed a 21-flat development, involving the removal of a brick wall shielding apparently unwanted underground garages.
The site, in Gillespie Road, tenant Leslie Hynes, 40, admitted he had been quite apprehensive when the council announced they were going to build 20 new flats at former underground garages at his estate.
Contractors removed an entire brick wall the length of a terrace and replaced the concrete with large bay windows for the new well-lit flats.
Now he, his wife Adela and their four-year-old daughter, have been able to move from their old one-bed flat on the second floor of the estate into a brand new two-bed flat on the ground floor of the newly completed development.
He said: “It is brilliant how the council have managed to turn old unsightly underground garages into excellent well-lit flats.”
Every available space is up for grabs, including most recently a former doctor’s surgery next to the Andover estate, in Durham Road, off Seven Sisters Road, where six new family homes will be available in September.
But the council has also earmarked car parks and garages on council estates in the borough for new development and that has proved the most contentious.
The council argue that the car parks are mostly underused and in disrepair, and promise that tenants on the estates where new building takes place will have priority on new homes that are built.
Plans to build on car parks at Ilex House in the Holly Park estate, Upper Holloway, and at King Square in Finsbury, have infuriated tenants, who have mounted huge campaigns against the plans.
Not so at 10-storey Vaudeville Court, however, where Peter Owen, 54, chairman of a tenants’ association, suggested to the council that they might want to consider developing the estate’s car park in St Thomas Road.
Mr Owen said: “Our car park has been an eyesore and a target for drug takers and vandals for many years. So when we suggested it could be developed the council welcomed the idea.”
Islington’s housing chief, Labour Councillor James Murray, said that he accepted that each estate was different and presented its own set of problems.
“But tenants need to know that building on car parks or any other available space doesn’t have to be a bad thing,” he said.