They’re stealing our sky again

Community based pressure groups always said allowing the eleven storey building heights at the south end of King’s Cross Railways Lands, now trademarked as King’s Cross, and the building height at King’s Place would result in further high buildings locally. Regent’s Wharf is the latest. Many thanks to Ian Shacklock and Friends of Regent’s Canal for alerting us to the extended deadline for comments on this planning application. You can now get your objections in by the end of February – please do this, it can make a huge difference.

Regent’s Wharf is a large block stretching from All Saint’s Street off The Cally to the Regent’s Canal.

The property developers want to add additional storeys and extend the basement. The planning application includes all the usual information. It’s always worth being very critical of planning application documents provided by property developers; whether text, drawings or artists impressions, they are designed to get the application through. It is only by pointing out what these documents miss, or what they overly spin that communities can stop bad designs or force changes to them.

A good example of this are the photo and artists impression comparing the existing building:

comparison-11 With what the building would look like if the planning application goes through:

comparison-12

Note that the top picture is darker than the bottom one and the shadows falling across the canal don’t change. This is done deliberately. It makes it look like the new floors won’t make a difference to the sunlight reaching the canal, towpath and buildings opposite. The subtle change in exposure used, with the bottom picture being lighter, makes you feel rather positive towards it, perhaps without you even realising. Yet this is pure spin. The loss of light to the canal and towpath will have an impact on our local wildlife and the buildings opposite will get less sunlight. I just can’t stand it when property developers treat people like idiots, yet they do this sort of thing all the time!

And there’s more, lots more to be questioned in this application. We are potentially walking into a Docklands situation. Local people are being priced out of living here whilst prestigious companies move massive workforces in. We lose free and affordable local amenities and gain being on the fringes, looking in at a lifestyle we are excluded from. Regent’s Wharf will only add to this slow destruction.

The planning process is still one of the few ways local democracy sometimes does good things. Please send your comments in. Have a look at the Friends of Regent’s Canal website to see more artists impressions. You can see all the planning documents on Islington Council’s website. Send your comments by email to planning officer Simon Greenwood at simon.greenwood@islington.gov.uk. Even if you just write one line, you could be the one making the difference.

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Open Weekend at St Pancras Lock

St Pancras lockHead  to St Pancras Open Weekend on the 4 & 5 February where visitors will get the chance to learn more from heritage experts, engineers and volunteers about St Pancras Locks on the Regent’s Canal.  As part of the Open Weekend, on Saturday 4th February The Canal and River Trust will be holding a one off gig in the lock between 6-9pm. From King’s Cross, walk up York Way to the canal bridge, then walk along the towpath towards Camden (it’s signposted), you’ll hit St Pancras lock in a couple of minutes.

Works at St Pancras lockActivities over the weekend include:

  • Visitors will be able to walk in the drained lock chamber, seeing first hand the exceptional engineering work that helped construct the canal originally and talk to  experts about the essential restoration and repair work being carried out.
  • During the weekend, visitors will also be offered guided heritage walks from Granary Sqauare to Islington Tunnel. Local trip boat operator, Hidden Depths, will offer boat trips from outside the lock up to the London Canal Museum.
  • Visitors with a head for heights will also get the rare chance to go to the top of the St Pancras water tower. This was originally built to supply steam trains with water, the Grade II-listed tower was moved in sections by a huge crane to its current canalside location in November 2001.
  • Additionally there will be activities for children onboard the Jena, which will be moored at Granary Square.

On Saturday evening (Feb 4th), the Trust will host a one-off ‘gig in a lock’ – the first music event of its kind in the UK. International contemporary music composer and sonic artist, Kaffe Matthews, has composed music inspired by the sound of water as it passes through a lock, contrasting between the dramatic rush of water as the paddles are wound up, to the calm and serenity as the lock slowly refills. Kaffe will be performing the music at the bottom of the 14-ft-deep brick lock chamber, which provides a unique acoustic space.

The gig will be held in three sessions – 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. Come along and join in the fun. It will be first come first served so turn up early to avoid disappointment.

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Holloway Prison community centre call and consultation launch

holloway-for-saleOn Saturday 18 February 12.00 to 13.30 people are invited to gather outside the entrance of the former Holloway prison on Parkhurst Road, N7 to support a call for the building to be opened for public use.

Holloway prison closed last year. It will be three years before any new development begins on the site. Just outside the prison walls is a building that was formerly used as a visitors’ centre for those visiting prisoners. It is modern, accessible and child-friendly. Rather than being left empty until a decision is made about the future of the prison site, the visitors’ centre could be opened immediately for use by the people of Islington.

The organisers say, “We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to loan the visitors’ centre to a partnership of local community groups so that it can be run by them in the community interest. It would be a complete waste to leave such a good resource locked up and unused for years. There are lots of ways the building could be used:

  • A very low cost resource to support the work of the many community groups in the borough. 
  • To provide help to those in the greatest need in our community. 
  • For community events.”

The prison visitors’ centre was built with the help of charity funds. It is on Government land and managed by the Ministry of Justice. So the land is public land and the visitors’ centre is a public building.

 

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-13-22-39Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice is planning to sell the land. There is a lot of concern that a private developer will buy the land and build unaffordable luxury flats on the site.

Recently, over 100 Islington residents attended a public meeting in Islington to discuss what should be developed on this large area of public land. People shared a range of views on how the land might be developed. All agreed the needs of the community must come first.

Justice Matters: a community plan for Holloway is a two year community consultation project, independent of government and Islington council. They will be working with local people and community groups to develop a community vision for the Holloway prison site.

 In March 2017, they will be launching the first phase of a community consultation.

Visit www.plan4holloway.org.uk to find out more and receive updates on how you can take part in the consultation.

 

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A flock of Fieldfare

fieldfares-in-kings-cross-hidden-garden

Spotted by Patrick and Sarah Swan in the hidden garden between Northdown and Balfe Streets on Monday, was this incredible flock of endangered Fieldfares. They explain:

“The flock was actually much larger than the photo shows.  The birds were around for several hours and at times the tree had at least three times the number in the photo. They were flying around, coming and going from the tree, flying to trees near the Nido buildings and there were also about 20 or so on a tall tree in our communal garden.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says:

fieldfare-1“Fieldfares are large, colourful thrushes, much like a mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. They stand very upright and move forward with purposeful hops. They are very social birds, spending the winter in flocks of anything from a dozen or two to several hundred strong. These straggling, chuckling flocks that roam the UK’s countryside are a delightful and attractive part of the winter scene.

Fieldfares have Red list status:

  • Globally threatened.
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995.
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period.”

Thankyou so much Patrick and Sarah.

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Seven to a room in Kings Cross

The Kings Cross rental market never ceases to amaze.  Here’s the latest on spareroom.co.uk – 13 people in three rooms, one a dorm room of seven (also on Gumtree).

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-10-13-43

Not quite sure where it is – but the map pin suggests above a run-down row of shops just before the Poor School.  Islington is indeed the UK’s most densely populated borough, but these densities are reminiscent of C19th tenement slums.  Thanks to @jonfoster on Twitter for spotting.

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-10-25-20

The ad says>
‘I have 2 beds available in a roomshare, in a house which consists of 13 young and amazing people. Dont get scared off as many times there is no one home, we all work and have lives outside of the house. The house consist of 3 Rooms:

Room 1: for 2 people but already full

Room 2: For 4 people. The room at the moment consist of three girls so they would love another girl to join them. The bed costs £390 a month but requires signing a minimum 4 month contract.

Room 3: (also my room) this room is a 7-bed room and has one bed available for the right person. Its a mixed room , so we dont mind a boy or girl. The rent is £390 a month but requires no signing of any contract. The minimum stay is just one month, but trust me some of us have been here for more than a year.

Guys, dont be scared of sharing a room , it could be a great way to save money, and a good way to start when just arriving to London. We have a shared kitchen , bathroom, washing machine, dryer and wifi….all bills are also included. So Living in Kings CRoss, zone one for this price! Feel free to contact me on Wassap or Viber to arrange a viewing.

Romina’

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Happy Xmas

Thanks to the lovely people in the Facebook Group Camden a Pictoral History for the pic. 

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Pentonville facilities not ‘safe, decent and legal’

146b4b74-07b9-4b3f-ad52-5f4eee31a9b4Correspondence released under FOI between the Prison Minister and the Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Pentonville reveals  a weird sense of complacency and blunders by the Ministry of Justice.

Ministers were aware of the window problems at Pentonville at the very latest in mid 2015 when they received the Independent Monitoring Boards report.   Broken windows were allowing ingress of contraband.  The Minister wrote to the Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board on 28 October 2015 acknowledging the problems:

selous pentonville

But did not act in a timely manner to fix them.  Implied in theMinister’s letter is that facilities at Pentonville are not ‘safe, decent and legal’.  In 2015 MOJ worked out how to replace the windows and went through a process to raise money internally and procure the services and materials.  Work at height in an environment like a prison can’t be easy and there are presumably special security specs for the glass.   It may be related that on 1 June 2015 Carillion took over prisons maintenance as part of a contracting out exercise.  In June 2015 the Secretary of State for Justice labelled HMP Pentonville as a failure.

In 2015/16 HMP Pentonville developed a chronic problem with drones shipping contraband to window sills.

The Prisons Minister in a letter to the IMB of 30 August makes clear that only a few dozen windows a year will be replaced, instead of dealing with the whole lot.

A year on from the Minister’s first letter the windows were still not fixed – there had been glitches.

On 18 October 2016 an inmate was apparently stabbed to death by another inmate. Rumour and some media reports suggest that the weapon used was a hunting knife smuggled into the prison by a drone.

On 7 November 2016 two inmates escaped through their cell window – we don’t know yet whether the systemic window problems were a factor.  But in general, one should not be able to get out of prison cell windows nor smuggle in ‘diamond cutters’ to do so.

The Chair of the Independent Monitoring Board in a letter of 10 November 2016 also released under FOI is clearly frustrated that the Secretary of State and her team at MOJ haven’t seized the issues with any sense of urgency.

The local MP, Emily Thornberry writes on 8 December to stalwart local Councillor Paul Convery covering a letter from the Minister to her, saying that the windows are due to be replaced ‘this week’. But she notes that the Minister isn’t clear how many will be done.

MOJ, the Prison Service, NOMS etc have an obligation in law to maintain a ‘relevant duty of care’ towards inmates and staff.  At the core of this is taking reasonable measures to stop weapons being smuggled into prison – this isn’t just planning such measures, but implementing them in a timely manner.  It is entirely reasonable to expect that the windows in a prison can’t systematically be broken. Keeping the physical perimeter secure against contraband including weapons is at the heart of a relevant duty of care.

In the slow moving world of public administration and procurement, taking over a year to replace 80-odd high risk windows might not seem so surprising.  But that’s the wrong way to look at it.  The Minister himself knew that the windows were being used to smuggle contraband in Summer 2015 because the Independent Monitors had told him.  MOJ, NOMS, the prisons service etc would have known this long, long beforehand.  Having worked in large government bureaucracies myself, I know that a diktat from a Minister can act as a massive stimulus to solving tricky problems and cutting through cr*p.  That the windows were not fixed at Pentonville within months of coming to the Minister’s attention is astonishing and in my opinion, simple negligence by MOJ.

 

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Copenhagen Youth Project gives Christmas wishes to all

CYP logo.Copenhagen Youth Project at 172 Copenhagen Street N1 0ST is a unique youth project working in partnership with young people to create and sustain positive youth culture.

Every year 90% of young people that CYP work with aged 7 to 11, demonstrate increased responsiveness to learning, improved understanding of consequences of behaviour, and that they have learned about the impact they have in our community. The CYP Youth Led Enterprise includes public exhibition space were youth achievements are displayed, giving young people a sense of pride in their community. Parents, grandparents and residents can share in this pride as can our whole community including local businesses and commuters.

CYP would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year:

CYP logo.

CYP members with Harry Shearer & Judith Owen at ‘Christmas Without Tears’ at Kings Place on December 8th 2016.

“A Big thank you to all our supporters, we wouldn’t be here without you! 2016 has been a very hectic year for us with lots of changes, challenges and excitements.”

If you would like to support CYP, just click here.

CYP Christmas closing times from Christmas Eve to Monday 9 January 2017.

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