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Fears for Islington skyline as invasion of high-rise towers looms

Move to ease housing crisis by lifting height restrictions sparks warning of ‘overpowering’ tall buildings

22 February, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

An illustration of how the City North development could look in Finsbury Park

NEW tower blocks could change the face of Islington as Town Hall chiefs make a bid to ease restrictions on tall buildings.

Archway, Finsbury Park, Nag’s Head and Holloway, King’s Cross and Pentonville Road have all been earmarked as areas that could accommodate towers, with some as high as 76 metres.

But representatives from the Islington Society and the Highbury Community Association are objecting to the council’s Local Plan, saying tall buildings are already “overpowering” areas of Islington.

Andrew Bosi, a spokesman and former chair of the Islington Society, said: “It’s disappointing because I think the only area suitable for tall buildings is the ‘City Fringe’.

“If we build tall buildings it could change the nature of the borough and impair protected views.”

The move contradicts Islington Council’s own analysis from 2010 which said that “none of the areas were suitable” for tall buildings.

But an updated analysis published last year found that they were suitable.

The council currently only allows developers to build tower blocks higher than 30 metres, or twice the size of surrounding buildings, in the “City Fringe” area of Bunhill and Clerkenwell.

Andrew Bosi: ‘It’s disap­pointing’

The new Local Plan will provide a framework which developers will have to use for planning applications between 2020 and 2035.

The council is considering feedback on the draft plan, with further consultation taking place this summer or early autumn.

Diane Burridge, of Highbury Community Association, said in its newsletter: “Already, we are seeing the negative impact of tall buildings at Finsbury Park. The City North development of two 21-storeys linked by a 12-storey building is now rising up and overpowering the area.”

Ms Burridge and Mr Bosi both acknowledge the need for more social housing but said that tower blocks are susceptible to property speculators who “snap up” units and leave them empty to increase in value.

Mr Bosi added: “It costs more to maintain taller buildings and the developers inevitably use viability assessments to drive down the number of social rent houses they can provide.”

Housing chief Councillor Diarmaid Ward said: “Islington is facing a housing crisis, and we’re strongly committed to delivering new, genuinely affordable housing. Well-designed, tall buildings can potentially provide some of the genuinely affordable housing our borough so desperately needs, as well as badly-needed space for employment.

“The new Local Plan would in principle allow more high-quality, tall buildings in specific areas, if they met the council’s planning policies, rules and obligations, including those on providing gen­uinely affordable hous­ing and ‘buy-to-leave’, and on employment.”

He added: “We have very successfully challenged developers who have tried to bypass our requirements on affordable housing, and are also widely recognised for having some of the toughest measures in the UK to stop ‘buy-to-leave’ new homes.”

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