Springtime for Kings Cross

Kings Cross is more famous for its intense urban-ness but on a lovely Spring day with the trees freshly in leaf the harsh urban edges are softened a little by the greenery.  Here’s a few pics from this morning.

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Posted in Wildlife and Nature | 1 Comment

Camden council to be replaced by algorithm

In a radical efficiency move Camden Council is to be replaced entirely by software with public services delivered by cash machines, parking meters and street cleaning robots controlled by an ‘artificial brain’. We can reveal today that the brain, christened ‘Theo’ by council officers who are busily coding themselves out of existence will be constructed on a quantum facility in Kazakhstan as the council reaches out to new post Brexit markets.  

Asked why they had gone for a Kazakh supplier, council procurement officer Ron Abramavich said:

‘You can’t get broadband in Shoreditch and if you base it in Kings Cross what happens if it breaks when the underground is shut with overcrowding and no one can get there to turn it on and off again?. 

‘It started out cheaper buying from Kazakstahn but then we realised that we still had to follow EU procurement rules so it costs a lot more’

Asked if Councillors themselves would be replaced by the electronic brain Cllr Blackhole said: 

‘Elected representatives are impossible to simulate – computers are not very good at empathy and besides there is no way you could program them to do some of the crazy things my colleagues get up to.’

On Camden High Street Camden resident, Bob Vole said:

‘What about stairs? Robots always have problems with them – look at the daleks.’

In Hampstead, part time resident Camilla Otter said:

‘Will this make it easier to object to my neighbours planning application?’ 

The brain’s incept date is 1 April 2019. 

[Picture – Wikipedia, Shor’s Algorithm]

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On the Panayi property trail….

Local people will be familiar with the exploits of convicted landlord Andrew Panayi on the Cally Road.  But what is the extent of his property empire on the Cally?  We can shine a light on a small part of it through the properties where he has a license in his own name for multiple occupation.  This map shows the 30-odd properties where Mr Panayi has an HMO licence in his name based on data extracted from the Council’s website.

Council sources tell me that Mr Panayi has a further 30 or so HMOs of which he is the freeholder licensed by his agents including Benjamin Sintim of Harris Brown Estates on the Cally Road.

This only seems a small part of it though.  The Guardian, having spoken extensively to the council reports Mr Panayi ‘owns 200 flats around Caledonian Road’.  Mr Panayi says on camera – ‘We don’t even know how many they are‘ in the BBC documentary ‘Secret History of Our Streets’

Mr Panayi’s empire strives to expand – he is appealing against the Council’s refusal to grant him permission to extend further a flat on the already heavily extended 237 Caledonian Road. The ground floor of  237 Cally has been the site of numerous odd businesses over the years and, in the 1950s an IRA arms dump according to J Bowyer Bell.  It is this property that Mr Panayi expands upon in the BBC documentary describing how he bought it in 1990, filled in the back garden with building and triggers his infamous ‘Build first, get the permission later’ comment.

Any further additions to the map are welcome via the comments.

Posted in Anti Social Behaviour, Planning, Licensing and Regulation | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

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:


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.

Posted in Big developments, Green spaces, New, Planning, Licensing and Regulation, Wildlife and Nature | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

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


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).


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.


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.


Posted in Planning, Licensing and Regulation | 5 Comments