Andrew Panayi, left, and Ann Longman, who tried to prevent her eviction
Middle picture shows Eileen Christie, who runs the Prince pub, and, below, a message to landlord Andrew Panayi (left) and well-wishers' cards for Ms Christie
Published: 6 July, 2012
by ANDREW JOHNSON
MORE than 100 residents of Caledonian Road have signed a petition calling on the Town Hall to hold a public meeting to discuss landlord Andrew Panayi, who owns much of the street.
Mr Panayi sparked anger after appearing on a BBC television documentary about the road two weeks ago in which he boasted about flouting planning laws, saying that he “builds first and asks permission later”.
He showed cameras around cramped flats he had built underground and said he would not retire because if a cow is producing milk “you keep milking”.
It has since emerged that he owns more than 40 properties on the road.
But his boasting on television has created a backlash against him in the street.
His tenants have started a Twitter campaign, called CallyCows, to compile a dossier of his activities as a landlord.
One member, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s difficult to do anything because if we speak out we risk being evicted.
"We want to improve the area but to do so means we may have to leave.”
Councillors say they are concerned that the numerous shops that Mr Panayi owns – many of which are empty – are holding back regeneration of the street.
Labour ward councillor Paul Convery said the Town Hall was considering compulsory purchase orders on these properties.
He revealed that Mr Panayi had in the past received thousands of pounds in council and English Heritage grants to repair shops, but at least two of these were still empty.
Eileen Christie, who runs the Prince pub, has also fallen foul of Mr Panayi, who is her landlord.
A star of the TV documentary, The Secret History of Our Streets, Ms Christie says she is having to sell up because Mr Panayi partitioned the pub’s bar to create two residential flats, the tenants of which have complained about noise.
In a dispute over who should install soundproofing, as demanded by the council, Mr Panayi has written to Ms Christie saying the soundproofing is her responsibility.
Ms Christie is also in dispute with Mr Panayi over her electricity and hot water, which she says was cut off before Christmas.
Another of Mr Panayi’s tenants – 67-year-old widow Ann Longman – failed in a court bid this week to prevent her eviction after three years from one of Mr Panayi’s properties when her lease ran out.
The court gave her an extra week before she has to leave.
She fears that she will be homeless, although Mr Panayi is perfectly within his legal rights not to renew the lease.
Ms Christie, 53, has received dozens of fan letters and cards from around the country since the television programme was broadcast.
The pub has become a regular stop on the tourist trail, with UK and Australian holiday-makers turning up to say hello.
One tenant has launched a leaflet campaign against Mr Panayi, and others have put up notices on trees and traffic signs saying:
“No milk left in the Cally. These cows are empty.”
The residents’ petition asks how many extensions have been built by the landlord without planning permission, and whether he will be forced to remove them.
They are also demanding action on empty shops.
The petition adds: “We are members of the Caledonian Road community.
"We have all been aware for some time of breaches of planning that have been allowed to pass unchecked on the Caledonian Road, but we are shocked and outraged to have learned from the recent BBC documentary of the blatant disregard... for the overall community shown by Andrew Panayi, all without little intervention or obstruction from Islington Council.”
Cllr Convery said he thought a public meeting was a “good idea”.
“Councillors have been talking about what to do for some weeks,” he said. “But since the documentary went out the issues have become white hot.
“It has really sparked anger and a lot of people have come forward with complaints.
“We can’t stop him running his business but we can make him run it in conformity with planning, environmental health and building regulations.
“We are identifying all the properties he owns, which number about 40, and cross-referencing planning permissions.
“We have asked for a review of what powers we have with regard to the shopfronts. We need a carrot-and-stick approach.
“In the past he has always been able to do what he wants to do and he isn’t just going to sell up and quit.
“We are looking at a whole range of measures, including compulsory purchase. His ownership is a dead hand on the regeneration of the Cally.
Economic improvement is being held back by his business model, which is to rent the flats above the shops.”
Mr Panayi did not respond to a request from the Tribune for a comment.
During the documentary he said that he had been within the law for the last four years, and that his residential flats kept within the law regarding health and safety, lighting and other regulations.