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A lesson in hoodwinking people

12 February, 2021

Canopy: view of the trees from a Dixon Clark Court flat

• BEFORE Diarmaid Ward is allowed to bask any more in a self-righteous glow over his council housing and pseudo-green credentials, we need to consider providing “fact checks” under some of the statements issuing from the councillor.

Just because he currently has a desk in the town hall should not provide him with a licence to disseminate disinformation.

It has already been established on these pages that Labour councillors and planning officers cooked up a brew of contentious – and one might say fake – statistics to cheat the existing occupants of Dixon Clark Court into thinking that the housing development on their site would deliver an increase in “green space” of “100sq m”; although the residents knew their beautiful communal garden at the back of the site (716 sq m) would be built over and replaced by a smaller (310 sq m) garden closer to the main road.

Two eminent and independent architects in the pages of the Tribune have proved the council’s 100sq m figure to be a misrepresentation of the facts, which are that open space available to Dixon Clark Court residents will actually be reduced by 34 per cent, and for an increase of population of 65 per cent.

The council pulled off this trick by arbitrarily creating a new category: “usable green space”, by means of which they dismissed much of the existing open space around the Dixon Clark Court tower as “unusable”, and therefore removed from calculations of lost space.

Actually it is perfectly usable space, which years ago the council could have upgraded in terms of its environmental benefit, especially as the ownership of cars has declined and so the need for hard standing space.

So let us just draw a breath as we await the chain-saws moving in on the heels of the bailiffs to cut down those seven precious mature trees, and consider why Cllr Ward is having to sit behind his desk “disheartened” (as he says) about protesters holding up the building of 25 council homes and a private block.

These people have been brave enough to face down the freezing weather and multiple discomforts of the occupation to try to save these trees, and prevent the council ramming the final nail in the coffin of the environment of Highbury Corner.

But let’s be clear. There would be no protesters on the site and the trees might or, more probably, might not be gone if the council had ever engaged in genuine consultation and dialogue rather than using concerted, underhand, and covert methods to try to hoodwink the local population about the realities of their scheme for Dixon Clark Court.

They did this by:

1) hiding (in June 2018) their intended felling of the seven trees from their maps of the future layout of Highbury Corner, and so from public scrutiny;

2) by excising any mention of this tree-felling from the environmental impact assessment on Highbury Corner, (for which it was obviously relevant with 17 trees and about a third of the green space already consigned for destruction in that scheme); nor is there any mention of the Dixon Clark Court trees in the Highbury Corner planning document; except that

3) in both documents Dixon Clark Court is usefully found to be “separated by a green buffer with mature trees along the street frontage”; as there will now be a four-lane highway in front of the tower this was spun as a good thing but, of course, there is no mention that almost half of that green buffer is now going to be removed;

4) most insultingly to the residents of Dixon Clark Court, while claiming their green space would be increased when it will be substantially reduced, the council then ignored the tenants’ representations via Savills of their serious concerns about the development; and

5) advice was also ignored from the council’s own appointed design review panel, that more careful consideration should be given to the impact of the development for the current residents of Dixon Clark Court, and to integrating the development with the planned Highbury Corner restructuring, neither of which stipulations (as we’ve seen) were acted upon.

And that is why we are where we are: with occupations, expensive legal and eviction actions added to our council tax bills, and now no hope at all that sanity might prevail and some compromise found to relocate the private block and save those trees for the mental and physical health of the neighbourhood and Islington.

Had Cllr Ward and his fellows really been so interested in delivering the public good, where would be the necessity for all this subterfuge and fake figures? But can the Tribune please refrain from continuing to publish them as though they were true?

Compton Terrace, N1


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