Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand since Blair morphed into Brown, the government has now put housing at the forefront of the political agenda, having realised that the current lack of residential units being built is totally inadequate.
At the frontline of this campaign is the need to build more homes in brown-field sites in our cities so that we can edge towards those housing targets of about 200,000 a year.
Unfortunately for those Londoners who think we need more housing, the 'village atmosphere' of Old Street Roundabout is not a candidate for development if Islington Council get their way.
Yes, you read that right 'village atmosphere'. At an extraordinary planning meeting, proposals to build a new 130 metre tall residential tower at 100 City Road that would contain 225 new homes, experienced widespread opposition.
• Supporters of the scheme who contacted Islington Council to voice their opinions were told by council officers it wasn’t within the borders of the council’s area.
• George Allan, chair of Islington’s south planning committee said the building was too tall. It is proposed for an area that Islington council planners have said is suitable for tall buildings.
• Old Street Roundabout was described at the planning meeting as having 'a village atmosphere' and new development would wreck the 'atmosphere'. Presumably this is an East German style village with hunking great concrete blocks and crappy traffic flow problems.
• English Heritage opposed the plans because it would overshadow Bunhill Fields – a quaint old graveyard – despite not being visible because of trees blocking the view and three towers already directly bordering the burial ground.
• The council’s heritage officer said that the loss of 70–74 City Road was unacceptable and councilors on the planning committee agreed. This is despite the fact the building is not listed by English Heritage so doesn’t have Grade II status.
• The building was officially refused for having too few homes in it. Councilors attacked it in the meeting for it having too many homes. The council’s Affordable Housing Office supported the proposal.
To refuse a building for having too little affordable housing whilst attacking it for having too much housing before the vote, and to claim it would be 'detrimental to the local character' of one of London’s ugliest traffic roundabouts just goes to show how far the planning system has to go if the government are to get anywhere near reaching their target for affordable homes.
The good news is that this power to decide buildings over a particular size is due to be taken from councils and given to the Mayor of London. You can bet that Ken will have a little more logic in his planning decisions although Londonist can just imagine Boris demanding we get
some half timbered office buildings in the City with thatched roofs.
By James Newman