Councillor Paul Convery has sent this helpful update on what has happened to the proposals to stuff this site full of huge numbers of tiny homes against the wishes of local residents.
[paste of convery email]
Development of the whole site
The discussions in recent days about how to solve the drug-related, prostitution and rough-sleeping problems at the school keeper’s house have revealed some new information about the Gifford Street site itself. As very little has happened on the school site, several people have asked me what is going on following the planning subcommittee last September gave a planning permission to build on it.
A subsidiary of J Laing Partnership (the construction company) called Intro Homes has been negotiating for many months to purchase the site from its present owners, Harinbrook. It was Harinbrook who bought the site at auction for a bargain price some years ago and who disgracefully knocked the old school down without any warning or agreement. As residents, we have had many years of argument with Harinbrook (and Islington Council too) over several planning applications some of which were either withdrawn or rejected by the Planning Inspectorate before they eventually got a permission. No-one ever seriously believed that Harinbrook would develop the site as the company really is just two guys making a bit of money from fairly unambitious bits of property speculation. The school site is way out of their league – although it is about to make them quite rich indeed.
As part of the transaction, Intro Homes has also been getting ready to purchase the school keeper’s house because the planning permission requires the entire site to be developed as one. I am told by Intro Homes that, although Islington Council have been straightforward in their negotiations, Harinbrook has been completely intransigent. For those of us who have dealt with Harinbrook over the years this is not a surprise. However, it means that the transaction has not gone forward and Harinbrook have put the site back on the market – and that’s also why Islington has not yet sold the school keeper’s house. Intro Homes still wants to purchase the entire site but Harinbrook have figured that a better price can be obtained by seeking another developer to sell to. What’s more, Harinbrook may still be trying to have the plans altered to reinstate the 4th storey on the Gifford Street northside. This had been removed from the application during negotiations last year but I am told they have been haggling with Islington’s planners to get it reinstated.
If Intro Homes does manage to purchase the site, it seems they will not want to significantly alter the plans that have already been given permission. However, there will be some modifications proposed because they have recognised that some aspects of the scheme (e.g. the basement car park, the layout of drains and the internal arrangement of the aprtments) will not work technically. Funnily enough, these include some of the things we said to the planning committee last year. Intro Homes have also agreed a partnership with Community Housing Group to develop the affordable accomodation. CHG is a pretty decent housing association based in Camden Town with a number of successful developments in our immediate area. Anyway, both Intro Homes and CHG may now be out of the picture if Harinbrook is touting the site around for an even higher price.
Demolition of the school keeper’s house
Yesterday, the building was re-secured by contractors working for the Council. I fear this may only give temporary relief from the problems, not least because access is still possible from the main part of the former school site and there are some of the external walls that can be climbed over. I have therefore suggested to the Council officials that they proceed with demolition sooner rather than later. There was a planning permisison given in July last year to demolish and this only requires some minor compliance work by the Council (as owners) to satisfy the Council’s planning officials that demolition works will be done properly, during acceptable hours of working and that the site will be securely fenced-off afterwards. I do not foresee any serious problems with getting this done and have been assured by the Council’s property manager that he will expedite this quickly.
However, if there is an alternative course of action that anyone can think of, do let me know.