Gifford Street bank – trees, houses, warehouses? You decide….

Giford rough At the back of Gifford Street is a remarkable space above the Channel Tunnel tunnel – a very steep high railway embankment runs behind the Gifford Street houses then slopes down and broadens out to meet the Cally Road next to the Ferodo Bridge.  Much of the site is too steep to use for development and there are some wonderful trees and scrub forming a rare wilderness with lots of interesting wildlife.   There is a large concreted yard on the site and some old warehousing.  

The scrubby bits of the site are sometimes called 'Copenhagen Junction Rough', which is nice for those who like a bit.  The Channel Tunnel people have now finished with the site and are looking at what they can do with it next.
The folk on Gifford Street and the Cally Rail Group have had long discussion with the Council and the developer, and the Council has now come out with a draft planning brief that will govern how the area can be developed. One of the more interesting issues is how they manage the trees (at present mainly a wild scrubland) with some sensible development.  The Council says:

'The draft planning brief expects proposals for new development on this site to retain trees where possible. Due to the location of housing suggested in the draft planning brief, some trees would have to be removed to make way for the new development. A tree survey is required with any planning application to help the council decide if trees are suitable for removal. Should tree removal be agreed, Islington Council requires every tree lost to be replaced with a minimum of two new trees.'

Repsonding to this isn't hard.  You should look at either the fairly simple consultation document here, with lots of pictures

or the draft brief here on the islington website, which is longer and a bit more technical, with annexes etc

….then go to the online questionnaire here where you can comment by clicking some buttons.

However, if you can spare the time come along to a meeting where all this will be explained at 730pm on the 18 May at Laycock Professional Development Centre, Laycock Street, N1 1TH (map) up near Highbury Corner.  

As a footnote it has taken me some time to wade through this and work it all out after Lisa was kind enough to send me the documents – i hope that the council is making a special effort to communicate within the Bemerton Estate, where i am conscious not many people read this site.  By special effort i mean more than leafleting.

We always like to correct things we don't get right the first time – Diana Shelley from Gifford Street has mailed in pointing out that I had misunderstood what had happened while the planning brief was being drafted:

'Cally Rail Group and residents on Gifford Street did not have any discussions with either Islington or the landowner about this draft planning brief. Cally Rail Group was largely successful over 15 years in protecting this designated nature conservation site from unnecessary destruction by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and many Gifford Street people with garden extensions have helped maintain the biodiversity of the site. But despite many, many attempts over the last seven years to get the Council to draw up a planning brief for a nature reserve, it was finally produced without talking to us.

'We have several concerns about it and hope to post an edited version of our comments made to West Area Committee. The day after West Area was the first time the group met officers from planning and greenspace to discuss these concerns, and we hope they will be taken on board. 

'We were particularly disappointed that there was only one proposal, unlike other local consultations (for example on Bingfield Park) where several different schemes were put forward. We hope the next stage of consulting with local people will include different ideas.'

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Planning, Licensing and Regulation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Gifford Street bank – trees, houses, warehouses? You decide….

  1. Paul Convery says:

    A few things to add, which I hope are helpful:

    1) I think there is considerable scope for developing affordable housing on part of the site closest to Caledonian Road and alongside Carnoustie Drive (which is the northernmost part of the Bemerton Estate). There is a good opportunity to remodel part of the estate by “extending” it into the planning brief site. I am sure this could be done without endangering the part of the site which would otherwise provide a nature conservation area. The planners have “bent” their view slightly since an early draft of the brief was in circulation but they are still quite negative about the potential for housing. Admitedly there are some reasonable engineering and environmental reasons why the site is not suitable for a large amount of housing (proximity to the North London line and the CTRL which runs underneath the site). However, I think a decent amount of housing could be provided using some imaginative design but also by incorporating some land which currently lies outside the planning brief site – i.e. the Lyon Street housing office and possibly even the shops/flats on the corner of Lyon Street/Cally Road to make a more logically unified development site. The Housing office is rather a waste of land and this function could easily be reprovisioned in a new development … as could some community uses.

    2) I also think this offers a great opportunity to turn Carnoustie Drive into a proper thoroughfare east-west … and this is a very popular overall goal in the area. Presently Carnoustie Drive is a peripheral service road running alongside the northern side of the Bemerton Estate. It has a rather unfriendly feel – it has mainly garages and fortified security doors into the estate. There are no homes currently overlooking so it feels quite dangerous especially at night. This ambition is strongly supported by the estate’s residents and by the Bemerton Villages Management Organisation which recently undertook a very successful estate-wide public involvement/engagement exercise resulting in a feasibility study (just published) showing how the estate’s spaces and walkways can be opened-up to reduce the fortress-feel of parts of the estate.

    3) Contrary to what is said in the report to the May 18th West Area Committee, the planning brief will be finally adopted by the West Area Committee and not by the Council’s Executive. In other words, the final decision rests with the local Councillors and not with the “Town Hall”. Sadly, the Council’s planners have demonstrated their ignorance of the Council Constitution but this error has now been acknowledged. So the item on May 18th will be a public airing and debate followed by the remaining weeks of public consultation; results of the consultation and then a final version of the brief will go to the 23rd June West Area Committee for adoption.

    4) Lastly, I have a pecuniary interest (which has been declared) because, along with most other neighbours on Gifford Street, my wife and I lease a small part of the land behind our house for a garden; because of this interest, I will play no part in the formal decision-taking.

  2. Diana Shelley says:

    Initial response to Islington’s planning brief for the Gifford Street embankment from Cally Rail Group

    • Cally Rail Group campaigned for 15 years to save as much of this site as possible for nature conservation during CTRL construction. We have discussed with officers creating a nature reserve for the last seven years, but the current draft brief was not discussed in advance with us.

    • We welcome the main proposals in principle but have several concerns. Only after the West Area meeting were we able to discuss these with officers; we hope they will be taken on board.

    • This consultation is on just one proposal, rather than three or four possible schemes, so it is in effect a ‘yes or no’ vote. This is in marked contrast to other local consultations, like Bingfield Park. We hope after this first consultation more ideas will be developed so local people are given a real choice in deciding what they want.

    • We have called for a further round of consultation, on three or four different options, and including a public meeting for local people to discuss them.

    • Unfortunately this single proposal is vague, uncertain and in parts contradictory.

    • There may be limited scope for a new warehouse building, given the need for safety and maintenance access to the CTRL portal and the tunnel some 3 metres below. Access for HGVs to the old warehouse was always a problem through the small entrance on the Cally, and workshops or light industrial use might be more appropriate.

    • We fully support housing on the site, but without existing noise and vibration studies for the position proposed one of two things may happen. Either studies will show housing can’t safely go here and we shall be left without an effective planning brief. Or the housing will go ahead anyway, with the normal noise and vibration levels being waived ‘as an exception’, as happened on the King’s Cross Triangle site.

    • Homes could go in other places. One we discussed with planning and greenspace three years ago is along the north side of Carnoustie Drive. This could have three advantages over the current proposal:
    1. Noise and vibration levels will be much lower as the site is further from and below the North London Line.
    2. A safer street environment could be created for Bemerton and Gifford St residents by a row of street-level homes.
    3. Housing here would avoid potential conflict with CTRL access and possible employment uses on the north of the site.

    • Back in 2002 we and Greenspace met with the Rail Link Countryside Initiative, a trust set up by CTRL to fund green projects in the CTRL corridor. They were keen to help fund a nature reserve. Seven years later it seems they may no longer exist, and Islington has missed out on funding designed for just this kind of project.

    • The Greenspace proposals with this planning brief date from 2005 and are mainly for interim management, not long-term objectives. They need much more development. What kind of nature reserve do we want? One like Camley Street which is open daily with a visitors’ centre, staff, facilities for school visits etc? Or one like Barnsbury Wood, which is largely unstaffed and open only a few hours a week? Something in between?

    • There is also a big contradiction between the 2005 proposals, which suggest limited supervised access, and this brief, which cuts a public footpath through the site. While we support this in principle, it would not be safe unless the nature reserve is staffed throughout the day. Given previous criminal activities on the site, it would also need to be locked at night.

    • Finally, we’re glad that the contribution made by the Gifford Street gardens and extensions to nature conservation has been noted. We trust that the garden extensions will remain with their tenants in any scheme, with secure fencing between them and the rest of the nature reserve. Without Cally Rail Group and Gifford Street gardeners, there would be a lot less nature left to conserve!

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