Digging our way out of winter

Bevin Court gardening group back in action again – last Sunday of every month from 11am until next winter. All the regular cheery faces plus some new ones. Come and join in if you like getting muddy and growing things


Plans for estate improvements: What are the options?

At the General Meeting on the 5th July, it became clear that most residents knew nothing of the planned changes to the estate. Bjorn Alcantara from LB Islington has kindly sent over details of the plans – I’ve put them together below with a few explanatory notes about other options.

Your TRA will be consulting all residents about what you’d like to do over the next few weeks. So please look through these plans and decide on your view and share it with us. We will arrive at a democratic decision and let the council know what we as a community want. 

Scheme 1: Installation of deterrent paving to loggia area 

This material is colloquially called “anti-tramp paving”.  Is intended to make it too uncomfortable to sit in this area, to stop young people and the homeless sitting there. I’ve previously posted my views on what I think about this here,  so here’s the nuts and bolts of what’s proposed.

Funding Allocation: £4500

Option A. LBI’s Proposal: To lay deterrent paving blocks on top of the loggia area located on the external ground floor behind the caretaker lodge. The type of paving block is yet to be decided but the two styles preferred are “Lambeth” and “Cobbles” (picture below)


Scheme 1- Bevin Court Loggia

But there are alternatives.

Option B: Conservation architect and Lubetkin Biographer John Allan proposes that we install planters there. Tim of the estate gardening group supports this plan and is happy to plant and maintain the plants. The gardening group also has some funds it could contribute to this scheme. Here’s a picture of how this would look:Spa Green Ground Floor planter detail

And finally option C :At the meeting on the 5th July, only a quarter of the people there felt there was a problem with this area of the estate that needed solving, so we could choose to do nothing.


Scheme 2: Installation of hardstanding and green roof bin shelters to accommodate recycling and refuse bins. LBI say this is required because they have to end our doorstep recycling scheme (meaning we will have to bring our recycling down to the bin area) and therefore we need extra space for recycling bins.

Scheme 2 – Green Roof Shelter DrawingScheme 2 - Green Roof Shelter Drawing



The bins would be place at the rear of the building facing flats 9-11.

Funding Allocation: £5000 (Environmental & Security Budget only)

Description/brief: This scheme will be delivered and funded in two parts:


  1. Part one is the concrete base installation which will be delivered/funded under the environmental and security budget. The work will involve a 7m excavation of the grass slope opposite and to the left of the bin chamber, laying of a steel reinforced concrete base, and construction of a 1m high retaining wall.
  2. Part two will be delivered via the Recycling team and will involve the installation of two prefabricated green roof bin shelters on top of the concrete base. These will house the recycling bins that are currently sitting on the access road. An additional green roof shelter was also planned for the area where the refuse bins sit directly  opposite the bin chamber. A decision was made for the shelters to be installed without doors as they would be an issue for recycling/refuse collections.


Other options? At the meeting on 5th July, residents in the flats close by were strongly opposed to having the bins moved opposite them – particularly as there won’t be doors on the binstores so they’ll get a full frontal view of the rubbish. Would it be possible to redesign this scheme so they don’t have to stare out at the bins from their kitchens?


Scheme 3: Unauthorised Parking Prevention Measures

Funding Allocation:  £2000

Description/brief: There are three elements to this scheme:


  1. Renewal and installation of double yellow lines including around the centre circle, rear access road, and ‘No parking at any time’ lettering outside the ground floor flats next to number 4.
  2. Installation of five concrete bollards to grass verge of access road leading off of Bevin Way.
  3. Installation of post mounted sign reading ‘No through road’ on the corner of the same verge.

Other options: Several residents have said that they think the yellow lines would be very ugly. Perhaps this could be dropped from this scheme. The view of the group at the meeting was that parking wasn’t really a problem at Bevin Court, so perhaps the best option is to do nothing?


Lubetkin Tour!

We created a guided walk that you can take with our CIGA guide Jiff Bayliss as part of our HLF funded Bevin Court Community Restoration.

We love this walk, but we had to miss out so much because we could not fly you all to Paris or take the bus to Dudley Zoo.  To solve this problem, we’ve made a Historypin tour, take a look, explore and enjoy.



Walks for LAF2016

Join us for two special walks for London Architecture Festival 2016. CIGA guide Jiff Baylis and the Bevin Court Tenants and Residents Association invite you to take a stroll and learn about some of Lubetkin’s buildings in Finsbury. 

First walk: 4pm Thursday 9 June 

Second walk: 11am Saturday 11 Jun

Both walks start at Isligton Museum. To join either of these walks, please book. Take a look at some of our other events for London Architecture Festival 2016. 

Planned deterrent (anti-homeless) paving at Bevin Court. The case against

Recently funding has been secured to put deterrent paving in a sheltered but open part of Bevin Court’s south wing, known as the “sunbathers” area. The plan is to lay a spiky concrete surface there that is designed to stop people sleeping rough, or even sitting down. I know that some residents support this scheme, but I’d like to put some arguments against, because I think it needs some debate:

1. It won’t work to prevent drug use and public urination and defecation 

If paving is installed to deter sleeping and sitting in the “sunbathers” area, it only makes it more likely that this space will then be used as a public toilet. It remains partially concealed, and because now by design it will not be possible to linger there, becomes instead an ideal location to squat and inject, or to roll spliffs, or to urinate and defecate. So the proposal as it stands will make this public health issue worse.

2. It discriminates against most vulnerable in society

The space is used by a variety of people, most of whom do no harm. Young people use the space as a social area to sit and talk. This generally takes place peacefully, and is their right. Public space exists for all of us, whatever our age, interests, income or housing status. Mild inconvenience caused by others is one of the prices we pay to live in the heart of a big city.

Sometimes homeless people do sleep there.  They do this not out of a malign desire to upset the good folk of Bevin Court, but because they have nowhere else that they feel is safe to use. Bevin Court presents them with a relatively safe and peaceful place to shelter. I have been told that a few rough sleepers have refused support from the council homelessness teams.  We should accept that homeless people are living chaotic and complex lives, and often suffer from severe mental health issues, and respect their choice when they say they do not feel safe in institutionally provided care. I find it sickening that some of us living here –  with homes, incomes and stability in our lives  – regard these highly vulnerable people with such hostility.
The young,  the homeless,  people with drug and alcohol problems, are all like the residents, human beings and worthy of our respect. They are being spoken of in the proposed scheme as if they were somehow of less value. We treat the local foxes with more respect.
Yes there are sometimes loud people using Bevin Court at night, some in Holford Gardens, even some using the area for which the deterrent paving is proposed. But this is the nature of urban life.  If people are committing crimes, that’s what the police are paid to deal with. The paving will just shift the disruption a few yards away to the park and Holford Way.

3. At best the proposals will only displace the problem of the homelessness, litter,  and noiseThe proposal merely displaces rather than solves problem. John is an excellent caretaker and I am very sorry that he has to deal with human excrement and drug detritus. For his sake I suggest that the council should send in specialist contractors to deal with this instead.  But as the proposals stand, someone will unfortunately still have to clear up the faeces, urine and needles, because the plans do nothing to fix the problems of homelessness or drug use. It may move the issue a few yards down the road but that is not a solution. Deterrent paving isn’t going to solve the complex matrix of economic, social and medical problems that have given them such a vulnerable and difficult lives. I can only imagine how degrading it must be having to defecate in public when there is no other option. Perhaps the council could provide public toilets instead?

Syringes appear in neighbouring Holford Gardens as well – would the solution be to close the entire park to everyone as a preventative measure? Of course not. Addiction should be treated as a medical not a criminal matter. If the council wanted to address problem drug and alcohol use it would be more humane and effective to offer safe spaces for addicts – shooting galleries as seen in more sensible European countries. Knives may occasionally  be disposed of there – if we put the paving down is this going to do anything to reduce knife crime? Of course not. You’ll just get the same knives being thrown away in the nearby flower beds.
A series of hyperbolic assertions are being made about crime and antisocial behaviour that simply have no evidential basis. In fact this estate is peaceful and safe in comparison to any other I can think of in central London.
4. It makes a disgusting statement 

If there was a proposal for an alternative use for the sunbather space that would serve the community I would support it.  But what is proposed offers no new use for the space, it just intends to deny its use to people that are arbitrarily categorised as undesirable. Otherwise the deterrent paving is just an ugly statement of our lack of compassion: “we might have no use for this space, but if you’re homeless, or young, or just wanting a quiet corner to sit in – you’re not welcome in our society!” It’s a vile attitude and it shocks me that public funds are to be spent on it.

I’d previously put the contact details for the council officer responsible for this project, so that you could give her your views on the matter. She’s asked for them to be removed as there will be a consultation in due course – the time to listen is apparently not now. It’s nice to know council officers read these posts and that they really are working for the communities they’re employed to serve!

Tom Cordell, Flat 13.


Bevin at the BBC

We recently had a visit to Bevin court by Elain Harwood from Heritage England. Elain has been a fan of Bevin Court for years and has included it in her numerous books.

We were lucky enough to be able to explore Bevin Court with Elain for an afternoon with her film crew. This is what they produced these shorts about the BT Tower and Bevin Court.

Take a look at the BBC’s The concrete truth? Brutalism can be beautiful and find out what Elain thinks of Bevin Court.


Guiding Lubetkin

This blog was kindly written for us by Jiff Bayliss. Jiff is our qualified Clerkenwell and Islington Guiding Association Guide who took up the mantel of creating a community walk with the residents of Bevin Court.

When, in in the summer of 2014, Islington Museum secured Heritage Lottery funding to undertake the restoration of Peter Yates’ 1954 mural in the lobby of Bevin Court, one of the exciting ideas included in the project was to take a lead from the community and have a series of community initiatives.

As well as establishing a website, restoring the bust of Ernest Bevin and engaging with the wider community, a walk to put the mural into local and historical context was planned and I put in a proposal to the Heritage Team as to how we might approach this.

The initial brief was to produce a walk which told the story of:
• Berthold Lubetkin, the architect of Bevin Court, and his associates
• the local landmarks associated with Lubetkin, and
• the history of the area’s development.

The intention was to make this a community led initiative and a steering group of Bevin Court residents was formed to oversee the walk’s development with the aid of some professional support. Alex, the project co-ordinator, convene and chaired the meetings with myself as the Clerkenwell and Islington Guide, who would be leading the walks.
The Gang
Some of the Gang: Paula, Julia, Sue, Jiff and Alex. We also had huge help from Carol, Tom, Haidee and David.

One of the first things to sort out was how long we would like the walk to be. I advised that for an hour walk the total number of stops should be between 7 and 10.  We then started with a brainstorm of possible stops within a mile and a half of Bevin Court, “The Gang” identified 18 stops which was then whittled down to 12 then 10.

We then went through all the information and stories and discussed what it was that we wanted to impart to people on the walk. One of the challenges was to think about how this information could be related to the stops so we had to make sure the stops were:

  • safe to stop at
  • interesting and informative in their own right
  • make sense of how they are related to the wider theme of the walk

To work through how the walk would flow I  summarised all of our stops and ideas in  a matrix.

Bevin Court Walk Matrix

Once we had all our thoughts agreed I was sent away to do the initial research. After much discussion,  we finalised our tour to 10 stops. Due to the time restraints and what the group wanted to focus on, Spa Green Estate and the New River Company headquarters were dropped and it was agreed that the final 5 stops would all be inside Bevin Court. Now to try it out…

Three “Dry Runs” were undertaken with residents and Islington Museum staff, some more successful than others…!
Dry run walk
The walk was finalised with an extra 11th stop at Wilmington Square.

Bevin Court Walk Route

This is the route was followed with its first walkers on 18 July 2015. It has been repeated 8 times since  winning compliments from participants and recommendations from the Royal Academy and the London Architectural Diary.

Well done, Gang!! Another 8 walks are planned taking the programme into summer 2016. A broader Historypin tour showing and mapping all of Lubetkin’s work in the UK (and Paris) will be available in the new year.

Bevin Court Greenspace Consultation

The initial scheme for replanting the grounds at Bevin Court was developed by Islington Council Landscape Architect, Marc Linton CMLI (Chartered Member of the Landscape Institute).  Members of the Bevin Community Gardens group liaised extensively with both Marc and with Trees for Cities, a charity that was drafted into the project to help both fundraise for the project and also to help deliver it.

Residents of Bevin Court & Holford House were consulted via a poster & leafleting campaign outlining the proposals.  Trees for Cities also engaged in a door-knocking consultation with residents during November 2010 in which residents were shown the detailed plans and asked for feedback.

The scheme was broken down into 6 areas:
Area 1 – two areas of hedgerow in front of Bevin Court
Area 2 – Main entrance in front of Bevin Court
Area 3 – Woodland around the ramp entrance at Bevin Court and in the small circle viewed from the lobby
Area 4 – Renovation of existing shrub bed along the South (maisonette) wing
Area 5 – Rear of Bevin Court in front of Flats 9-13 and in the fenced area underneath the East Wing
Area 6 – Holford House grounds


The results of the consultation were overwhelmingly positive with

  • 100% of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 1,
  • 92% of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 2,
  • 100% in support of the proposals for Area 3,
  • 96 % of respondents in support of the proposals for Area 5.

Areas 4 & 6 were not specifically polled as they were renovations of existing areas.  Instead, residents opinions were asked what sort of plants they would like to be included in the new planting.

There was unanimous support for the inclusion of a hedgerow around the front areas of the estate.  Many residents consulted were unhappy with the level of dog mess in the front of the estate and around the estate in general, with many residents commenting that the offenders were from outside the estate.   Some residents were also concerned with children playing football on the lawns at the front of the estate and wanted to encourage them to use Holford Gardens at the rear of the estate instead.

Several residents were also keen to see birds encouraged on the estate.  There was strong support for the introduction of a greater variety for types and sizes of plants around the state, with several comments along the lines of “Enough trees!  Can we get some colourful plants & flowers, please?”

A few residents were concerned that additional planting at the rear, ramp entrance of the estate (Areas 3 &4) could contribute to existing anti-social behaviour in the area.  In response to these concerns, Islington Council installed a new, higher fence around the woodland area (Area 3) and renewed the lighting along the path by the maisonette wing.   Islington Council continues to monitor this area in cooperation with Bevin Community Gardens and the Bevin Court Tenants’ & Residents’ Association.

Finally, more than a few residents were worried about squirrels ruining the planting.  That’s one we are still working on!

Islington Council’s Vision for Greenspace on Housing Estates

Islington Greenspace adaptation measures

Housing estates in Islington pose a huge opportunity to tackle climate change whilst also improving the quality of our residents’ lives. This can be achieved by changing the way the open spaces are managed and increasing access to and contact with the nature which is on residents’ doorsteps. This bid would enable the council to provide open spaces that deliver similar benefits to that of a quality green space such as those in our public realm.

There are two broad areas that can be looked at for improvement, and can be defined as existing open space and new spaces.

Existing open space
The measures proposed will adapt the open spaces and also improve the quality of existing open space for both residents and wildlife. There are a number of small scale projects that can be taken forward to help us meet the targets set out in the Boroughs biodiversity action plan, Homes for Islington’s Sustainability Strategy and meet the needs of local residents:

Developing wildflower meadows on existing lawn areas
By creating wildflower meadows, it is possible to create an area that will be attractive to both people and wildlife and that will be more resistant to climate change. This is achieved by improving the visual aesthetics of a space and making better use of under utilized areas, they can save money from estate contract works as they cost less to maintain. Relaxing the mowing regime of designated areas on estates will also have biodiversity benefits by creating long grass meadow areas.

Planting of trees for shading
With global temperatures set to rise as an effect of climate change, urban areas such as Islington will be worse affected. Shade will become increasingly important in rising temperatures to help us adapt and minimize the health problems associated with a warmer climate. Trees will play a crucial role in this and they will also help mitigate against rising carbon emissions. Providing increased levels of shading will increase opportunities for residents to continue to use this outdoor space during the warmest parts of the year. The provision of more trees on estate grounds will also provide invaluable habitats and food sources for birds. The planting of trees can also contribute to a community’s sense of place and will be considered for all improvement schemes.

Shrub and tree planting for wildlife
The landscaping of estates can be multi-functional in terms that it provides screening and noise insulation, in addition to ecological and aesthetic considerations. The planting of bluebells, ramsons and snowdrops can be added to the under-storey of deciduous species, providing attractive colours for residents and acting as a good food source to invertebrates. Planting of hedges is important as these provide natural nest sites for birds and green corridors for mammals such as hedgehogs to move about more easily.

Installation of artificial nesting sites, feeding stations and other ecological features
The provision of nest boxes both within estate grounds and on buildings can contribute to the engagement of the local community in the form of community workshops, providing a sense of ownership and raised awareness as well as contact with the natural world. The boxes will provide significant biodiversity enhancements. Feeding stations provide invaluable supplementary food source particularly where berry producing shrubs are scarce. Feeders can be designed to be squirrel proof and can be adopted by residents who can refill them without the encouragement of squirrels and pigeons.

New Spaces
There are a number of estates that have limited existing open spaces, but have the potential to create new or extend existing open spaces. There are a number ways that this can be done to contribute to strategies for adapting to climate change, improve the quality of residents lives, and benefit biodiversity.

Creation of new landscaped areas
The amount of tarmac surfaces can be reduced by creating new landscaped areas. These new areas will help reduce the urban heat island effect and will contribute to achieving greater sustainable urban drainage. For example by using permeable paving water is allowed to enter natural porous zones in the ground; this also assists in filtering out of pollutants.

Allotment spaces
There is huge potential to utilise all areas on estates, from transforming concrete areas, disused planters and raised beds into allotment spaces for residents. By providing allotment spaces we will be providing residents an opportunity to produce there own food and empower them to take over management of certain areas of an estate, which in turn will lead to greater community cohesion. Allotment and wildflower spaces will contribute to enhancing biodiversity on estates as well as towards developing sustainable communities.

Greening of existing structures
In areas where it is difficult to implement schemes that require more space, green walls can be created using climbing plants. Vertical concrete areas can be transformed into attractive spaces that improve aesthetics for residents and provide habitat for bird and invertebrate species. These green walls can also provide benefits in the way of discouraging anti-social behaviour such as graffiti and providing security, which is particularly true if thorny climber species are used. Another way to enhance biodiversity is to incorporate green roofs on to new structures or retrofit to existing ones. Green roofs have benefits that are threefold which includes providing habitat for various invertebrates, reducing surface runoff and heat island effect helping mitigate against climate change, and finally improve the quality of residents life’s by creating visually stimulating spaces that had previously been grey and barren.

All of the above projects both on existing open space and new spaces will provide opportunities for residents to become more involved in the care of their estates and strengthen community cohesion, they also provide opportunities to empower residents, through gaining new skills.