Gazette letters: Spring’s arrival, burial priority and Britannia Leisure Centre

A pollarded tree near Stamford Hill. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

A pollarded tree near Stamford Hill. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

Spring’s first feelers arrived in the city over the weekend, writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Golden sunrise warmed the brickwork and tempted me out early Sunday morning. The view north from the New River Path caught the essence of a spring morning so perfectly I carried it into the week – even through the drizzly commutes. Head out along the oath towards Finsbury Park and you can somtimes watch the sun leap down the storeys of high rises, chasing the crows and pigeons up, out of their secreted nests.

Arriving home to Newington Green I burst out laughing. Daffodil shoots in my front garden – far too early to be amusing, but enjoyable nonetheless. I planted them in spare patches of soil along my street, a protest against my housemates who think them tacky and glib. Just wait until the first bloom, bright yellow petals to decorate our curbside.

Deep in the crevasses of a pollarded tree near Stamford Hill a different sight caught me by surprise. Ageing, weathered chicken of the woods bursting forth from. Easily mistaken for polyfilla, I love it. The most unnatural colour and shape in urban nature. A reasonably tasty fungus too, provided you cook it long enough. Don’t go slicing it on my advice though, or the editor will sue me.

I wish to address a paragraph in the Gazette article stating that: “The AYBS has not directly answered allegations it had left the coroner’s officer feeling ‘persecuted’ with its repeated phone calls and e-mails, or that she had ended up delaying other important work so she could deal with the man’s case despite the staff shortage”, writes Dr Asher Gratt, Adath Yisroel Burial Society.

As far as I am aware the AYBS volunteers would always speak with the coroner and coroner’s officers in an even-handed and calm manner.

Likewise, the solicitor Mr Asserson and his staff do the same and the tone of their correspondence is balanced and reasonable.

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However, where it is felt necessary, in order to enable someone to be buried quickly, we will try to make sure that all reasonable efforts to achieve that are made, either by phoning the coroner’s office ourselves or instructing our solicitors to take appropriate steps, which does not amount to bullying.

Furthermore, we were never told that the coroner’s office was dealing with another faith death.

Had it been explained to us that this was causing delay we would, of course, have accepted that.

However, where we were effectively being given no response, we persevered. There was no bullying, however.

It is clear without a doubt that Muslims and Jews are almost the only people who ever ask for a speedy release of a body. While everyone is usually concerned to have information as to what is to happen to the body, most people in Britain are in no particular hurry to have the body of the deceased released.

Accordingly, the fact that someone is occasionally given speedy treatment will pass entirely unnoticed by, and will have no material effect on, the families connected to other bodies requiring attention. No one will feel unfairly treated if the diverse needs of a tiny minority are catered for, as is regularly done by other coroner.

On Thursday, January 25, Hackney South and Hackney North Constituency Labour Party members called for a moratorium on the Britannia Development Plan, writes Pat Turnbull, Handley Road, Hackney.

They pointed out Britannia is a popular and fully functioning leisure centre and that there is no certainty about its proposed replacement on Shoreditch Park.

They objected to the plan to build 400 luxury flats on the site, including three tower blocks which the mayor has now revealed could be up to 30 storeys high - looming over Shoreditch Park and dwarfing neighbouring homes. Flats that would not meet the needs of local people and are likely to be sold to wealthy property owners as an investment or ‘pied a terre’, driving up rents locally for homes and businesses and forcing people out of the area. They pointed out the need for a City of London Academy School – also proposed for the site – is contested, since a need for additional secondary school places in South Hackney is not substantiated by available evidence.

There are risks attached to a scheme dependent on the sale of 400 luxury dwellings when sales are slowing down London wide, they added. The council is the initiator and developer of the scheme and therefore carries all the risk.

Hackney South also called for full disclosure of all relevant information including minutes of the Britannia Development Board – not currently publicly available – with a view to further public consultation.

The call for a moratorium comes hot on the heels of the January 8 public meeting called by the Save Britannia Leisure Centre, Save Hoxton campaigners, where local residents and Britannia users in a packed Arden Estate Community Hall fired questions and objections at Hackney mayor Philip Glanville.

Hopefully the council will listen to Labour members and implement a moratorium on this damaging and risky plan.