Gazette letters: Birds in Hackney, new builds and council tax

A Canada goose gorging on a spillage of pastries into the Regent's Canal. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

A Canada goose gorging on a spillage of pastries into the Regent's Canal. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

Heading east along the canal, soon after passing underneath Mare Street but before you arrive at the entrance to Victoria Park, stop walking, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

To your right, on the south side of the canal, crowds of buddleias stretch upwards away from the water, clinging onto the redbrick warehouse creating a dystopian façade.

Wait there, and if you’re wearing headphones be sure to take them out. Immediately above you and overhanging the towpath is a hawthorn tree. As you stand, after probably no more than five minutes, the first few chaffinches will begin to flock back and forth between hawthorn and buddleias.

Within minutes at least 50 birds, possibly more, have probably passed over your head, which on a sunny day may makes it feel like a Disney film.

The sound of them – shrill, chattering – is deafening: the kind of birdsong generations before us must have thought normal. Nowadays, since the decline of species like house sparrows and starlings, it is a relatively rare urban experience to hear and see birds in such large numbers.

Lest I get too carried away, my walk back west towards Angel served as a decent reminder of urbanity: three Canada geese gorging on an accidental spillage of pastries into the canal. Pretzel rings and bagels floated serenely downstream, chased by waterfowl weaving their way among the floating debris.

It seems a bit arrogant to us on the outside to describe 165 people who objected to a proposed development as “NIMBY objectors”, writes Pat Turnbull, Hackney, full address supplied.

There may be any number of reasons why Hackney residents do not want to see every spare piece of ground filled up with housing.

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Of the 11 proposed homes, six would be shared ownership. This is aimed at households with an income of up to £90,000. These homes are too expensive for Hackney residents on low and middle incomes.

Only five would be council-rented homes. Even these might be let at rents above current council levels, if our experience with the new council rented homes on New Kingshold Estate is anything to go by. These are at rents nearer to the Mayor of London’s London Affordable Rent, which is considerably higher than current council rents. I don’t know why.

In any case, it would be hypocritical of the council to lambast the people opposed to these five council homes when their regeneration schemes all over Hackney have resulted in lost council rented homes. To give just one example, Colville Estate in Hoxton originally had 432 council rented properties [of which 95 were lost through right to buy, leaving 337 – ed]. The final tally for the regeneration scheme, which has been going on since 1999, is currently proposed to be 935 homes. Of these, only 348 will be social rented. 449 will be for private sale and 138 for shared ownership.

Just to add, the private sale properties include the 198

luxury properties being built by developer Anthology on land sold by the council, and two towers 16 and 20 storeys high which cast a dark shadow and create a wind tunnel for the Colville Estate residents whose homes were demolished and who were rehoused in Bridport Place opposite them.

As I say, there may be many reasons why Hackney residents do not want to see housing going up on every bit of space.

Not content with shutting down Hackney Council’s community newspaper Hackney Today (see me after class! – ed), local government secretary Sajid Javid comes up with a tax bomb., writes Terry Wood, Manor Road, Stoke Newington:

There can now be a 6 per cent hike in council tax. They can find billions for the DUP to save their own skin, but underfund social care and the police – leaving people on fixed incomes and stagnant wages to pick up the


Without proper government funding, this will not fix the shortfall. The Conservatives hope, by doing this, the council will be blamed and not them. Don’t be fooled.