Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Last week I continued my fight to ensure that planned redevelopment projects in Islington include genuinely affordable homes for Islington residents.
Clerkenwell Fire Station:
I opposed the sale of the fire station, which was approved by Boris Johnson despite the opposition of local residents. Now that the sale has been approved I am pushing for reassurances that the new development will meet Islington’s need for genuinely affordable homes.
Following on from a recent meeting with the Mayor of London’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Planning, Edward Lister, I wrote a letter calling on the Mayor to issue a direction requiring the site to be designated for affordable housing. Lister replied to me saying he did not consider it “appropriate” to designate this site for affordable housing.
I can’t believe the Mayor is being so coy about this. He has already announced that he would push for three other fire stations to be sold on condition that Free Schools would be built. So why can’t he do the same to meet the need for more social housing in Islington?
Boris should not have sold Clerkenwell Fire Station, but now that he has, the least he can do is to make sure that the new development meets Islington’s needs. Clearly he believes it is within his power to earmark sites like this for a specific use, and it beggars belief that he would effectively block efforts to build the social housing we need here in Islington.
The continuing battle over Mount Pleasant:
I’ve been trying for many months now to extract various details about the plans for the old Royal Mail site, including vital information about the viability assessment, which would show whether or not due regard has been paid to the need to provide affordable housing.
The Mayor’s office is not providing this vital information to me. My FOI request should have been responded to within 20 days, but the Mayor’s office took three months to respond, and even then only did so when prompted by a complaint to the Information Commissioner.
When a response finally did come through, the documents were so heavily redacted that it was not possible to scrutinise the decisions officials had come to, or the assumptions that those decisions were based on.
Boris Johnson is treating Islington’s residents and their representatives with contempt. If this project is going to have any credibility in the local community we need to know that genuinely affordable homes will be provided as part of the plans, and the Mayor is wilfully obstructing efforts to meet our affordable housing crisis as these two projects move forward.