Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Social Housing on Mount Pleasant? Royal Mail will not deliver

ROYAL Mail has organised a new exhibition about the Mount Pleasant development so people can see the progress being made on the project.

Sadly, no significant changes have been made to the initial proposal. This is despite earlier feedback given at the first exhibition and the strong feelings expressed against most aspects of the development at the Holiday Inn public meeting in November.

This should come as no surprise though. All Royal Mail is doing here is ticking the “consultation process” box. This hollow procedure may give some a sense of democracy but will only damage the community by delivering what promises to be one of the worst developments Islington has seen in years.

If anything, the development looks worse as details of the design emerge. It is an extremely dense development, which will impact heavily on nearby residents and offer crammed housing for the new ones.
Despite what the architects say, the height and design of the buildings (up to 15 storeys) are not in keeping with the wider area, which consists mostly of Victorian and Georgian houses and low rises.

Most shockingly, it is estimated that the proportion of so-called “affordable housing” will only be around 20 per cent. With rents that can be charged up to 80 per cent of market price, everyone knows that “affordable housing” is everything but.

The 20 per cent on offer is a disgrace. What this means is 80 per cent exclusive flats and the gentrification of yet another part of the borough. Expect fancy shops and restaurants, and the usual corporate chains of coffee shops that exploit their staff and avoid paying taxes.

Islington Council says it is committed to 50 per cent affordable housing in large developments. This should be a minimum and the Mount Pleasant development should not be exempt.

What this development should deliver is genuinely affordable social-rented housing. With the austerity measures and the cap on housing benefits, a growing number of people can no longer afford a decent home in the borough. We cannot allow them to be let down in the name of profit.

It is clear by now we cannot trust Royal Mail or anyone to deliver what is needed for the community with this development. It is also clear that nothing will be achieved through the official channels of “consultation”. A solid and collective opposition needs to be built if we want to stand any chance of getting anything out of this development other than an anti-social eyesore.

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