The special Cycling Newsletter in December drew well over 30 responses. Members’ views were summarised in a letter to the Islington Tribune, published on 15th January. That letter and another on the same topic can be seen here
Transport for London has now published the intended route for Crossrail 2 which will have a station at the Angel. The route has been changed to avoid having to demolish the Angel building itself and other listed buildings on Islington High Street. This is good news. The route is open for consultation until 8th January 2016. Details can be found here
Readers will know that the Amwell Society has been campaigning for years for the creation of a Heritage Centre around the listed buildings on the undeveloped portion of the New River Head site. Although our Council has supported this aspiration through successive planning briefs, they inadvertently allowed the site to be sold to a developer, Turnhold (Islington) Ltd, who has come forward with various schemes for residential development. These would effectively put paid to any notion of a viable heritage facility.
The most recent proposals came up before the Planning Inspectorate at an appeal hearing in October 2015. Members of the Society spoke against the scheme. The Inspector also considered two alternative proposals:
1. A scheme from the Heritage of London Trust, which foresees mixed heritage and commercial use of the site, and which was granted planning permission earlier this year
2. A fully commercial option, providing studios and office space for small businesses and start-ups (there is a shortage of such units in Islington because so many have been converted to residential use).
The Inspector has now ruled against that part of the Turnhold scheme that was of greatest concern to us, namely the conversion of the Engine House to residential use. He considered that a fully commercial scheme would (a) be viable, and (b) do less harm to the listed assets and their setting.
What does all this mean? We have averted, at least for the time being, the most serious threat to the site, but does that bring our Heritage Centre any closer to realisation? That depends largely on what Turnhold do now. Will they come forward with a revised scheme which enjoys the support of the local community, abandon their plans and put the site up for sale, or hunker down and hope for a less rigorous planning regime in the future? Time will tell. In the meantime we will continue to liaise with the Islington Buildings Preservation Trust and other interested parties to try and secure the best possible outcome.
Society members and local residents will recall that Marcus Cooper has bought the freehold of the gardens in Myddelton Square. He refused an extension of LBI’s lease in 2012 stating that the square gardens were to be developed. Following this, the company, Myddelton Square Investments Ltd has put in two planning applications to carry out “substantial works of construction” to develop the unrealised economic potential of such public gardens. His planning applications were dismissed by the LBI and dismissed on appeal in August 2014.
Since then – in April 2015 – Marcus Cooper has reluctantly conceded that LBI has an entitlement to a new lease agreement for Myddelton Square given that they have been successful leaseholders for many years under the New River Company, the Metropolitan Water Board and Thames Water. Under those organisations, LBI paid a peppercorn rent for the gardens. However, Cooper has outrageously suggested that LBI should pay an annual rent of £100,000, based on a surveyors report that looked at private garden squares in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. So, it seems that negotiations will be protracted and stormy.
Christian Wolmar, award winning transport writer and broadcaster, has cycled 2000 miles in pursuit of the nomination as Labour candidate for London’s Mayor in 2016. He gave us a masterly summary of London’s transport history and a glimpse of several possible futures.
He started with a view of London’s streets as multifunctional – social spaces for play and building neighbourhoods as much as for transport. As London grew and workers needed transportation the first innovation we got was George Shillibeer’s horse drawn omnibus. This started in 1829 and is commemorated in The George Shillibeer, a pub by an old omnibus factory on the Caledonian Road.
Driven by the growth of Victorian London the British became world leaders in the invention of novel urban transport systems. The first underground train was the cut and cover line running between Paddington and Farringdon which opened in 1863 (see illustration). Tube trains, tunnelled through London clay, followed. These were concentrated in north London where land for over-ground railways was too expensive.
The age of the car accelerated in the post war period, with a decline in public transport, and we were shown several brutal plans for new London motorways which flourished in planning offices between 1960 and the 1980’s. Luckily most of them fell by the way, and from the 1990s there has been a gradual decline in car use.
It was no surprise that he sees cycling as part of the future – though his vision of a pedestrianised Oxford Street has no room for cycles. There was more ambivalence about electric cars; fussy to charge and polluting unless the electricity is ecologically sourced. As for driverless cars, these are still a fantasy for now; for urban areas they don’t solve any of the congestion problems we face.
Christian faced off some hard questioning about badly behaved cyclists and ensuring suitable transport for disabled people, and the continuing discussion reflected an excellent evening.