I wanted to provide some background and additional details about the planned estate improvements.
As you may recall, one of the issues we discussed when establishing this Tenants’ & Residents’ Association (TRA) was that it would give us access to Islington Council’s annual Estate Improvements and Estate Security budgets. This year, I chose to create three bids, based on a variety of factors – feedback from residents I have spoken to, concerns raised by Islington Council representatives & concerns raised by residents on the sign-up sheets which were distributed at our first meeting in May of 2015.
I hoped that these bids would be welcomed by residents and would be seen as desirable. This consultation is to decide if we want to go ahead with these plans and to determine how we want to proceed where there are different options available to us.
You feedback is very important, so if you have feelings about one of more of these schemes, please express them. You may, of course, be neutral about the plans and feel that they do not affect you or are not relevant to you, but we want to be sure that, where residents have opinions, they are heard.
New areas of hardstanding and new stores for waste & recycling bins
The bid for waste & recycle bin stores arose out of the planned withdrawal of the blue bag recycling scheme. You can read more about Islington Estate recycling here.
I met with Jean Hughes of Islington Council Recycling Team to discuss our requirements for recycling bins after the blue bag scheme ceases. Jean suggested that we would need 4 bins, emptied at least twice weekly. However, there is not room for 4 recycle bins plus the paladin waste bins and food waste bin without blocking the access road in front of flats 8-13, which is meant to provide access for emergency vehicles e.g. fire & ambulance.
We explored a number of options for housing the bins elsewhere on the estate. These were posted on the lobby notice board and around the estate. You can view them here.
We also considered converting the central rubbish chute into a recycling only chute. There were concerns about this as it meant that residents in the maisonette wing would not have a nearby rubbish chute, as they do not have a chute and the end of their landing as do the East & West wings. This plan was eventually abandoned as being unworkable.
Jean arranged for a survey to be sent to all 118 flats at Bevin Court. She received six replies. As these were confidential, they were not directly shared with me, but as I understand it, all were opposed to the chute recycling scheme.
Therefore, it was determined that we would have to create a new area of hardstanding to house the bins. I suggested that we excavate and pave an area next to the car park stairs, adjacent to the existing manhole cut-out and house the bins there. As these works were beyond the remit and finances of the Recycling Team, I agreed to bid for funding from the Estate Improvements Budget to augment the funding available for the project. The bid was successful and the project is to be co-funded by our successful bid and the Recycling Team.
The plan is for the newly created area to house the 4 recycle bins, the food waste bin and an area for lumber store (disposal of bulk items like furniture until they can be collected). The existing large paladin bins would also be housed in bin stores in their current location opposite the rear entrance.
Given that the state and sight of the bins are a constant source of complaint, as well as the expanded need for recycle bins on withdrawal of the blue bag scheme, I felt this plan would be welcomed by residents.
There is a choice to be made regarding the style of bin stores to be used. Two options have been proposed by the Recycling team. They are the Metrostor bin stores or the Green Roof bin stores.
The Metrostor bin stores look like this:
and are constructed from recycled plastic.
They can also be made from wood, which look like this:
but the wood bin stores are less durable and have a shorter guarantee period.
You can read more about Metrostor bins one their website here.
The Green Roof bin stores are another option. They look like this:
and are manufactured from wood and steel with an area on the roof filled with soil which would be planted with attractive plants & flowers. The end panels incorporate a variety of natural materials – wood, stones etc. and can also house panels with information about the natural environment. We hope that these will provide an attractive sight to look down upon, which is the way most residents of the West & East Wings view the bins.
You can read more about Green Roof Shelters here.
Either of these options can be supplied with or without doors. Our caretaker and the waste collection team have expressed a preference for bin stores without doors as these are easier for them to get the bins in and out of, but it means that some ground floor West wing residents will still be faced with the sight of bins. Bearing this in mind, I would suggest that we opt for bin stores with doors, so that the bins are hidden from the sight of ground floor residents.
We hope that the enlargement and enclosure of the waste & recycling area will address an area of concern & dissatisfaction for many residents.
In relation to the waste & recycling area, we have three options:
Option 1: Create the new area of hardstanding and erect the bin stores described. We would need to choose which type of bin store we prefer.
Option 2: Ask the Council to commission their architects to design another solution, bearing in mind that we risk lose our funding, as the money was granted based on the plan outlined above.
Option 3: Do nothing and return the bid money to the Council for another use.
Installation of deterrent paving on the South Wing loggia
This is an area that I have been looking into with the MAGPI since Feb 2013. The MAGPI is a multi-agency group involving Council representatives, police representatives and residents. I was invited to attend MAGPI meetings by our Estate Services Coordinator.
The loggia has been an attractor of anti-social behaviour for some time. We regularly have people “hanging out” here and drinking, especially on warm summer nights. They can be noisy and disruptive. I know that I have personally called the ASB team on many occasions when I have been awoken by drunken people in the loggia being disruptive. Other residents have reported the same to me. There are also sometimes people using and selling drugs in the area as well as prostitutes (and others) having sex here.
Rough sleeping is a separate issue as it is not in and of itself ASB. Rough sleepers can cause ASB, e.g. the recent spate of human defecation on the loggia, but just sleeping in the area is not ASB. People rough sleeping should be helped to move on to more secure arrangements and police and Streetlink have worked to try to find solutions for the recent wave of rough sleepers in the area. There is a Streetlink poster displayed on the notice board in the lobby and you can call them to talk about rough sleepers on 0300 500 0914.
You can also report rough sleepers to then online via their website here.
The MAGPI proposed several possible solutions to the problems arising from misuse of the loggia.
- It was suggested that it be bricked up, but this was rejected on conservation grounds as we are a Grade II* Listed Building.
- It was also suggested that the loggia be fenced off with chain link fencing, but this was also rejected on the same grounds.
- Finally, it was suggested that a Tango rail fence be erected across the end of the loggia, from the wall adjacent to the loggia to the Holford Gardens fence. This was also rejected on conservation grounds.
After this series of rejections, I suggested the installation of deterrent paving. Deterrent paving is not so-called “homeless spikes”, it is uneven paving designed to be uncomfortable to sit or stand on in order to keep people from congregating in or using an area. There are two basic styles; one is formed concrete with an uneven surface (known as Lambeth paving) and the other uses natural rocks embedded in concrete to create the uneven surface. I personally find the natural rock solution more attractive, but it is also more expensive.
The installation of this paving was set to go ahead in Nov 2015 as our Estate Services Coordinator had funding for the works. However, the project was delayed in seeking planning permission and the funding had to be spent before the end of the fiscal year or it would be lost. I agreed with our Estate Services Coordinator that I would bid for funding of the project from the Estate Improvements budget, which I successfully did. As the work is now proposed by the TRA rather than the Council directly, this means that residents are being consulted on what their preferred options are. Some people feel that deterrent paving in unattractive. I agree that it can be rather ugly, which is why I prefer the natural cobblestone option to the formed concrete option. There is another style of deterrent paving in use in Great Percy Street by Browning’s garage which I also think is more attractive that Lambeth style paving.
I discussed the deterrent paving option with Islington Conservation Officer Kristian Kaminski and Mike Dunn from Historic England. Kristian Kaminski advised that in installation of deterrent paving would, of course, require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and suggested I consult Historic England. He also suggested installation of “large freestanding stones not cemented to the concrete” as they “wouldn’t even require LBC and would be preferential to the use of any cement”. He also suggested metal or concrete planters, which again would not need LBC as they are freestanding item. Finally, he suggested the use of “concrete spikes”, which I personally would not approve of.
Historic England’s position is that “Historic England would have no objections in principle to your proposals, and we would be content for Islington Council to decide the matter as they see fit.”
As an alternative to deterrent paving, the chair of Bevin Community Gardens, Tim Spoor, proposed filling this area with planters and planters, so that no-one could get onto the loggia. I had concerns about this plan as I was worried that the plants might end of being vandalised. I was also concerned about the viability of the plants as there is no water supply in the area and the containers under cover of the loggia would receive no rain water and so would need regular watering. The lack of light in the rear of the loggia could also threaten the viability of plants in that area, in my opinion.
My vice-chair Tom Cordell, has objected strongly to the idea of deterrent paving as you can read elsewhere on this blog. In response to this, he contacted the architect John Allan who is a renowned expert of Bertholdt Lubetkin, the architect of Bevin Court. John proposed the installation of planters around the edge of the loggia, with or without deterrent paving in the area behind the planters.
I think this is an excellent compromise – if we install concrete planters along the edge, similar to what they have at Spa Green (another local Lubetkin building), this could prevent people from gaining access to the loggia. I think it is important to ensure that there is still deterrent paving behind the planters, out of sight, as otherwise the planters could end up creating an even more secluded and private place for anti-social behaviours and rough sleeping.
This is what the planters as Spa Green looked like:
So, the choices we have are:
1. Install deterrent paving, an uneven paving surface designed to discourage people from using an area by making it uncomfortable to sit or stand on
2. Install concrete planters around the edge of the area, with or without deterrent paving behind them. Planters might prevent people from using the area, but they might also create an even more secluded area behind the planters, hidden by plants.
Planters with deterrent paving behind would disguise the deterrent paving, but still prevent people from congregating.
3. Do nothing and return the bid money to the Council for another use. Some people do not see the behaviours I have described as problematic. Some people argue that those using this area have a right to be here and we should accept their presence.
Estate “no-parking” improvements
I confess that this was my “sacrifice bid”. I made this bid prepared to give it up in favour of the other two schemes if there was not enough money to go around.
If you are home at Bevin Court during working hours, you will have noticed that there frequently are vans from Islington Repair Team and other contractors (Wates, Mitie etc) parked around the estate, especially in the area in front of the ground floor maisonettes (flats 2-6) and around the boiler house at the rear of the estate. On some occasions we have had vans entirely blocking the emergency access road at the rear of the block. We have also had vans left parked in the circle at the front, again blocking access to emergency vehicles.
We have a small amount of double yellow lining in front of the ground floor maisonettes and a confusing and very ignorable array of signs dotted around the front of the estate.
My bid was to create legitimate spaces for contractor parking by the boiler house and to make it clear via double lining and/or signage that the circle and the rear access road were to be kept clear for emergency vehicles.
When I reviewed this scheme with Bjorn Alcantara of Islington’s Special Projects team, we discussed the potentially ugly nature of double lining and I stressed to him that creating legitimate parking for contractors and making it clear that the circle and rear access not be blocked were the goals. The scheme was also to install additional bollards along the top of the rear access road to prevent parking on the grass verge and to provide a foot path around the rear gate for use when the gate is closed.
We also need to ensure that parking on the estate is ENFORCED. Wing Parking, which holds the contract, don’t seem to be doing an effective job and in my experience are frequently unresponsive.
Islington Special Projects team have rejected the two parking spaces in front of the boiler house which was proposed, meaning we need to find another place to provide contractor parking. Two options were discussed:
1. Try to encourage residents parking in the unsecured bays opposite flats 5-6 in the ground floor maisonettes to move into the gated & locked car park instead. Our Estate Services Coordinator was concerned that this might appear as if Islington Council was giving preference to contractor parking over resident parking, but I feel it is still worth exploring if any residents parking in this area would be willing to move to the car park to free up spaces so that we can offer legitimate parking for contractor vehicles.
2. Assign two spaces in the gated & locked car park for contractor parking. This is complicated by the need for keys, which may be difficult to manage.
There is one unnumbered parking space at the front entrance gate of Bevin Court which is intended (as I understand it) to be visitor/contractor parking, but it is not sign posted as such as is frequently occupied by vans and other vehicles which do not display an Estate Parking permit.
There are three basic ways we could go with this bid.
Option 1: We would like to provide at least two authorised parking spaces for vehicles working on the estate and clarify the parking restrictions elsewhere on the estate. This would involve 5 points:
1. A review of all the existing parking signage to make it clear and concise
2. Paint double lining around the front circle and the rear emergency access road
3. Install bollards above the gate at the rear entrance to prevent parking on the grass
4. Installation of a foot path around the rear gate so residents do not have to walk through mud & dirt when the gate is closed
5. Installation of a “No Thru Road” sign at the rear of the estate to deter drivers looking for a short-cut through to Pentonville Road.
Option 2: We would like to provide at least two authorised parking spaces for vehicles working on the estate and clarify the parking restrictions elsewhere on the estate. This would involve 4 points:
1. A review of all the existing parking signage to make it clear and concise
2. Install bollards above the gate at the rear entrance to prevent parking on the grass
3. Installation of a foot path around the rear gate so residents do not have to walk through mud & dirt when the gate is closed
4. Installation of a “No Thru Road” sign at the rear of the estate to deter drivers looking for a short-cut through to Pentonville Road.
This is the same as Option 1, but without the double yellow lining.
Option 3: If we feel there is no problem, we can do nothing and return the bid money to the Council for another use.
The opinions expressed in this blog post are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire TRA.