Gazette letters: Holborn Studios, Lord Sugar, congestion charge and lockdown toilets

Holborn Studios, Eagle Wharf Road, Hackney. Picture: Isabel Infantes

Holborn Studios, Eagle Wharf Road, Hackney. Picture: Isabel Infantes - Credit: Archant

Emma Bartholomew’s article on the Holborn Studios decision has exposed major anomalies in Hackney Council’s planning process, writes Ian Shacklock, chairman, Friends of Regent’s Canal.

For over 10 years canal supporters have felt that the planning committee has made a mockery of democracy; and once again our views have been vindicated by a high court judge.

Year in, year out, the council has given the green light to unsympathetic modern developments that have turned the canal from a network of charming, quirky industrial sites into a canyon of glass and steel structures. In a lot of cases the older buildings had suffered neglect (often deliberately) and had been labelled as underutilised and the need for housing took priority over conservation.

However, nobody in their right mind can claim that Holborn Studios has been neglected or underutilised. The creative refurbishment and utilisation of this site has been exemplary and it has become a world renowned magnet for photographers, their clients and supporting businesses. Hackney Council should be very proud to host an organisation like this in the heart of Hoxton.

Things looked very promising in 2014 when the council added all these buildings to its list of protected assets. This sent a clear message to any greedy developers with big ideas about redevelopment, but within three years the council ignored its own actions and chose to listen to a developer instead of to the citizens and existing employers it serves. This u-turn defied logic and it led to two embarrassing and expensive failures in the high court.

The council remains confident that it has correctly interpreted its policies on creative industries. If those policies encourage demolition and displacement of a thriving innovative studio complex then those policies must be totally unfit for purpose.

Lord Alan Sugar has told a radio audience he believes the Covid-19 pandemic has peaked and that Boris Johnson should ease the lock-down arguing: “Who’s dead? I’m not. I’m still alive…. So’s everybody else I know. No one else has caught anything”, writes Sasha Simic, Stamford Hill, full address supplied

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Sugar has spent the last six months protected from the coronavirus pandemic in his £10.5m mansion complete with six bedrooms and seven bathrooms in an exclusive bay in Florida. Therefore it’s no surprise that he doesn’t know anyone who’s died from Covid-19. It is a disease that disproportionately kills the poor and working-class and front-line workers.

Sugar was born in Hackney. He can’t see it from his Florida mansion but on Clapton Common, Stamford Hill, there’s a hut on which local people have put up memorials to some of those who have been lost to this devastating pandemic.

The names include Haci Ali Dogus – a father and taxi driver, Nadir Nur who drove the no 394 bus, Sophie Fagin who came from India in 1961 to work in the NHS and was still working at Homerton Hospital when she contracted Covid-19. They include Thomas Harvey a father-of-seven, who worked as an NHS Nurse for 20 years and who died of coronavirus after treating an infected patient. They number Rabbi Avrohom Pinter an Orthodox Rabbi, community leader and former-councillor. Michael Allieu, a staff nurse at Homerton Hospital since 2007 and Nick Joseph, a porter at Whittington Hospital. Up on the wall is the name of Matthew Seligman, a human rights lawyer and bass guitarist who played with David Bowie. Also Jermain Wright, who was at the heart of the Hackney and Leyton Sunday Football League. And the wall names Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a consultant urologist at Homerton Hospital who wrote to Boris Johnson asking for more PPE to protect health workers days before he contracted Covid-19.

The wall gives a tiny inkling of the devastation the Covid-19 has caused and the toll it has taken on front-line workers the world over. But Lord Sugar says the lock-down should end because “Who’s dead? I’m not. I’m still alive….”

Sugar might still be breathing but his callous remarks show that he is dead inside.

Londoners will be rightly feeling robbed today, and undoubtedly, many small businesses and working people will be seriously worried about their ability to work and trade in central London, writes Keith Prince, Conservative London Assembly member and transport spokesman.

Sadiq Khan’s Congestion Charge hike will hammer working Londoners and hurt our city’s economic recovery. It’s deeply unfair that Londoners are paying the price for the mess Sadiq Khan has made of Transport for London’s finances.

For four years, the mayor has pursued transport policies he knew London couldn’t afford. The mayor’s fares freeze and continued delays to Crossrail have cost the taxpayer billions in lost revenue and bailouts.

On Khan’s watch, TfL has reached a record debt of £12 billion and 22 major transport upgrades have been delayed or cancelled to solve its money woes. It’s no surprise that TfL has crumbled during this crisis.

First, the mayor tried to shirk responsibility for his decision to hike the Congestion Charge. Then, he prevented Londoners from having their say by holding an appallingly short consultation. Instead of playing the blame game, Khan should have listened to Londoners’ concerns and abandoned his disastrous Congestion Charge plan.

With more cafes and bars tentatively reopening and serving customers outdoors, the issue of where to spend a penny after buying a pint has caused upset in neighbourhoods across London, as punters use public spaces to pee, writes Caroline Russell, London Assembly member.

Given the situation we are now living in, where the normal loos people would use are still shut, we are all finding ourselves constrained by ‘loo leashes’ which are so much more restrictive for people with disabilities who need urgent access to facilities or proper changing places toilets.

Earlier this year I put forward a fully-costed plan to the Mayor of London that found £18m to build new public toilets around Transport for London (TfL) stations, including world class accessible ones, and make all the existing ones free. It found support across the assembly, because who hasn’t ever been caught short?

I have written to Robert Jenryck, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government to make this loo package part of TfL’s rescue fund, to allow people to enjoy a day out with children, with people who have more urgent needs for loos, without restricting their lives more than necessary.

We are all finding this time very difficult, but we should not be further limiting people who want to escape their homes and take a walk.

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