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How many new homes was that, Islington?

31 July, 2020

Dixon Clark Court

• IT read: “As you know, every individual perceives information slightly differently, depending upon the context and their particular interests. It is always possible therefore that the wording of minutes does not reflect the perception of every interested party, but that does not necessarily mean that the minute is incorrect.”

This gobbledygook came in a response from Islington’s Council’s democratic services and governance to a request that the minute of the planning committee decision granting permission for new homes to be built on Dixon Clark Court (DCC) be amended to reflect accurately the numbers of additional social homes planned for the site, (Green space is a crucial question with the Dixon Clark Court scheme, July 10).

Correspondence sent to the council’s CEO, Linzi Roberts-Egan, and the environment and regeneration departmental head had been ignored for weeks when two follow-ups were sent. The silence continues to emanate from the two council bosses, junior officers being passed the revolving reply-buck, as in the pitiful nonsense above.

The council’s executive members refer regularly to the party’s manifesto promise of “550 new council homes by 2020”.

Since figures are being cited, the minute of the planning committee should be accurate, and the misleading figure of “27 much-need new homes” be amended to make it clear that this equals a net increase of 25 social homes – two existing council flats in the DCC block are to be repurposed as storage facilities.

The misleading figure was repeated in a letter sent last month to Jeremy Corbyn from the council’s new-build team. Concerned about the loss of the Highbury Corner “little forest” of seven mature trees, a constituent had contacted her MP.

She would be none the wiser about the actual number of additional homes on the site were it not for campaigners trying to save the trees by shifting the for-sale flats, which would replace them, a few metres along. The executive member for housing has summarily dismissed the suggestion.

In light of this and the council’s biodiversity action plan, now out for consultation, architects have been approached regarding the scheme. Links between Covid-19 and pollution have made a reconfiguration of the proposal a priority.

Planning committee is a quasi-legal body, and a minute can be lawfully amended. Misleading information doesn’t cut it. It’s to be hoped the CEO and her senior colleague may yet respond directly.

Democracy demands active-citizen scrutiny. On the matter of DCC additional housing and the “little forest”, the council is failing the test.

Ellington Street, N7


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