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Out of touch & the damage has been done

05 March, 2021

Cllr Richard Watts has been Islington Council leader for the past eight years

• IN his interview, the soon to be ex-leader of Islington Council, Richard Watts, said: “We are seeing more opposition to new council building schemes… The biggest threat to Labour in Islington is a growing inequality. Quite a lot of our leafier areas are growing even leafier and the residents moving in are less inclined to vote Labour.”, (I won’t miss the party’s factionalism, says council leader as he steps down, February 26).

That shows just how out of touch this Labour-run council has become.

A recent objection to building a private block on council-owned land was the proposed development at Dixon Clark Court and what Cllr Watts seems to have ignored is that many of these campaigners were supporters of the Labour Party. We were also residents.

Council spin declared the campaign was by people from outside Islington (Cllr Angela Picknell and Cllr Nurullah Turan, We are delighted our ward will now have these vital homes built, February 26), “…it’s unsurprising that activists who mostly come from outside the borough…” – how out of touch this council has become.

Furthermore Cllr Picknell objected to a planning application for a private house in Barnsbury, raising concerns for the tree canopy, yet raised no such concerns at Dixon Clark Court, where the council own the land, are the developers, and approved the plans for building of the six-storey private block necessitating the felling of healthy 50-plus-year-old trees.

We were disappointed the council ignored its own design review panel, which raised concerns on the mass of the development and suggested it hadn’t paid enough attention to the needs of the existing residents who, by the way, were losing not only their communal garden but a large area of tree canopy that protected them from the noise and pollution coming from the four-lane stagnant highway that is now Highbury Corner.

The benefits of outside space and a green outlook have been well documented yet have become vital since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Housing is needed. However a development should be able to work with the resources we are fortunate enough to have, including trees. It is not enough to say that more will be planted. We need to plant more and protect those we have.

If Islington Council understood what declaring a climate emergency meant they would have reversed their decision to destroy the healthy mature trees at Highbury Corner.

Please, councillors, do not send in a greenwashing response of bat boxes, wild flowers and hedgerow.

Finally, if Cllr Watts and housing executive member Cllr Diarmaid Ward were genuinely concerned about the “haves and have-nots”, why is this council delivering further segregation by building a private block, set away from the social housing, adding further division?

Richard Watts may have resigned but the damage has been done, to the community and to the Labour Party.

Upper Street, Islington


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