Sunday, 17 October 2010
Reaction to final planning decision for the former National Children's Home site at 85 Highbury Park from Caroline Allen
Having just attended the planning meeting, along with other members of Islington Green Party and local residents, I must write to express our deep disappointment at the decision to approve the development of Action for Children's former National Childrens' Home site at 85 Highbury Park in its current form, in spite of the failures to meet the planning brief.
The plans had been referred back to look at the two areas where the brief had not been met. On the first point regarding the proportion of affordable housing, a 5% increase was achieved, which we welcomed. However there had seemingly been no attempt at all to address the second point, requiring the mature grassland (known as “The Field”) to be retained in its entirety.
Katie Dawson of Islington Green Party was applauded for her passionate speech opposing the plans, reminding us how local campaigns had saved Gillespie Park and Barnsbury Wood from developers and that these were now much loved community green spaces. Could the same not be done for the ancient grassland at NCH? Islington Green Party has campaigned long and hard on this issue, commissioning surveys by the independent bodies London Wildlife Trust and London Natural History Society to examine the land. Experts from both organizations confirmed that the site has great ecological value as an example of pre-urban grassland, and is very rare in Islington, and indeed London. Had it not been privately owned it would be a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation and therefore protected from development. This is now lost forever. The proposal to transplant a tiny fragment of the grassland into an artificially landscaped area within the development just shows how little the councillors understand about conservation and biodiversity.
Particularly ludicrous, was the input of Councillor Kelly, who seemed to suggest that any opponents of this scheme did not support affordable housing in Islington. It seems wilfully simple-minded to look at the need for more social housing and the need to protect our green spaces as an “either/or” choice. Would Cllr Kelly like to build affordable housing on Gillespie Park or fell the trees of Barnsbury Wood to provide more social housing? The wonderful opportunity of the NCH site was that it offered ample space to provide housing and preserve this natural treasure for future generations.
Councillors on the planning committee have now established a dangerous precedent: ignore the planning brief on two points and you’ll get away with one; maybe try four and you’ll get away with two. How ironic that in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity, Islington Council and Action for Children have chosen to destroy this ecologically rich and irreplaceable natural gem.
Caroline Allen, Islington Green Party
Sunday, 12 September 2010
The new centralised Planning Committee voted to defer the planning decision for a month and have invited the developers to meet the conditions of the planning brief. Specifically 50% affordable housing rather than the 40% in the proposals.
We now have a month to lobby Councillors to meet a second condition of the planning brief , namely "retention of the mature gardens in their entirety". The developers have massively downplayed the significance of the grassland in the Islington context. Councillor Klute raised the example of Barnsbury Wood, which is similarly hidden behind buildings and is retained as a nature reserve with some public access. The hope is that the scheme can be improved to deliver both 50% affordable housing, which is desperately needed in Islington along with a design that allows this rare and valuable grassland to be retained and enjoyed by future generations.
Friday, 21 May 2010
"Don't forget, Katie made history and left a signature on the Council. So nothing went to waste!" (Highbury resident)It's taken me a while to write this post, but I just wanted to thank all the voters in Highbury West who backed Katie Dawson on May 6th - over two thousand of you, double the number who voted for Katie last time. As you'll all know by now, sadly that wasn't enough to get Katie re-elected, but we do want you all to know how much we value your support. We also want you to know that we in Islington Green Party will continue to fight for what we believe in - albeit, for the time being, as members of the community rather than with our own distinctive voice on the Council.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
In Islington North we obtained the fifth highest Green general election result in London; thank you very, very much to all of you who supported me.
As a first-time Parliamentary candidate, I've had a lot to learn - and loads more that I still don't know. But I've loved every minute of it, and I'm eager to do more.
A few people have suggested it's time for a rest - but first I need to honour a few promises I made in the course of the campaign. One thing I promised was to continue with the community campaign to save the Whittington, holding to account whoever forms the next Government (and the one after that!) So I was there at the DWHC meeting last night brainstorming ideas about how to do just that.
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Thank you to all of you who have been following our campaign over the last couple of months. It's been really, really exciting and rewarding - and for me as Parliamentary Candidate a huge privilege to be able to represent the Green Party, and its radical policies, in Islington North.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
The hustings was all about Highbury issues - and three out of the four parties* managed to field Highbury candidates to answer them!
We faced a range of challenging questions on issues from the Council's tree policy to the rumoured threat to the Highbury Barn Tavern (the word on the street is that there are plans to turn it into a Sainsbury's local); and from rat-running down Fieldway Crescent to the possible reintroduction of a Citizens' Advice Bureau in Islington and the future of the excellent Islington Law Centre. We were also quizzed on broader policy issues such as improving secondary schools; the need for investment in social housing; and the erosion of local democracy.
Thank you very much to William Ellington (Chair of the Roundhouse), Victoria Ellington (Management Committee) and Andrew Berthier (Director) for inviting me; to Nicky Anderson (Pensioners' Worker) for providing the refreshments; and to Martin Jones (Highbury Fields Association) for chairing the hustings and giving us all a chance to have our say!
*The speakers were as follows: Conservative - Neil Lindsay (Highbury East); Lib Dem - Terry Stacey (Highbury East); Green Party - Emma Dixon (Highbury East); Labour - Catherine West (Tollington).
Thursday, 29 April 2010
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
Pictured here are (L to R) Richard Bunting (Islington Conservatives), Catherine West (leader of Islington Council Labour group), me (Emma Dixon) and Terry Stacy (Lib Dem leader of Islington Council).
The hustings were a great opportunity for me to find out more about the challenges faced by the third sector in Islington, and to express my support for their excellent manifesto.
At this time of threatened cuts to the public sector, the Green Party has pledged both locally and nationally that we will protect front-line services - and that is equally, if not more, important where those services are provided by the third sector.
And for those of you who weren't at the hustings - you can catch up on who said what via Voluntary Action Islington's live Twitter feed!
If you haven't received your ballot papers, you should contact the Council's electoral services department on 020 7527 2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Don't miss out on your chance to re-elect Katie Dawson and elect more Green councillors in Highbury West and Highbury East.
If you have received your ballot papers - don't forget to cast (and post!) your votes.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
I've got three scrapbooks at home full of press cuttings about wonderful stuff that we have done since Katie Dawson was elected to the Council. I am prone to getting them out and making guests look through them - the political equivalent of holiday photos.. Anyway, this blog post is the electronic equivalent of that - some of the great, and funny, moments of the last four years since the election of Islington's first Green councillor, and my good friend, Katie.
Here, with a lovely photo of election night, is the Gazette in May 2006 when Katie was elected, suggesting that the Greens held the balance of power on the Council. Sadly, we didn't - quite - at that stage, as (rather unfairly!) the Lib Dems (with 24 members against Labour's 23 and our one) got to choose the Mayor - and the Mayor has the casting vote.
Trees have been a big issue over the years, including some 'killer pear' trees which eventually featured on the pages of the Evening Standard (and even the Daily Mail); I'm pleased to say our campaign to save the trees succeeded and the residents now harvest the fruit and make it into jam and even pear liqueur!
On a more serious note, Katie has worked year in and year out to stand up for residents against big property developers (including Arsenal) seeking to squeeze ever-bigger developments into Highbury without the necessary infrastructure (eg schools, doctors' surgeries, public transport) to cope with them. Islington is the borough with the least green space per head of population anywhere in Britain, and the situation in Katie's ward (Highbury West) is even worse, with the smallest amount of play space in any ward in Islington. Despite this, we have had to battle hard to prevent developers being allowed to concrete over the few remaining areas of green land - and, sad to say, with only one councillor among 48 we have not always succeeded.
There have been some bizarre moments too - Katie's been quoted in the press over the years on a variety of subjects from freshly-slaughtered polar bears to dominatrix shoes .. but I'll leave you to track those down for yourself!
So - after that whistlestop tour of my virtual scrapbook - what's the verdict at the end of Katie's first four years? Well, far be it from me to trumpet our successes: the last word goes to the Islington Gazette, which last week reported on ... Katie's Green revolution!
Remember, however you decide to vote in the general election on 6th May, vote Green in Highbury in the Council elections on the same day to keep an independent, strong Green voice on the Council. You can read more about the amazing amount our Green councillor, Katie Dawson, has been able to achieve here. As we always say, every Green vote really does count!
Just arrived in the office after the launch of Islington Green Party's manifesto for the Council elections down on Drayton Park. It was wonderful to see everybody - and great that passing drivers honked their horns to show their support!
The manifesto sets out ten reasons to vote Green in Islington, but maybe we should add an eleventh - the wonderful photographs illustrating our beautiful borough! Huge thanks to our amazing photographer Maria Jefferis for that.
We all left the launch buzzing with excitement - a really great start to the day. Thank you to all our candidates, activists and supporters for making this happen.
Monday, 19 April 2010
I went to my first hustings of the Parliamentary campaign on Thursday. After a couple of tense hours preparing in the back room of Euphorium opposite the Town Hall, I took to the platform together with the Parliamentary candidates from the three other parties.
I'm happy to report that I was given a really warm welcome by the Pensioners' Forum - special thanks to its chair, George Durack, for that. There was a lively debate on issues ranging from the Olympics to renationalising the railways!
You can read all about our policies for pensioners in our Pledge for Older People, but here's a taster. The Green Party would end means testing for pensioners' benefits. Means testing is not working - there is currently £2.9 billion of unclaimed Council Tax benefit for pensioners - and it's unfair. We would introduce a Citizens' Pension of £170 per week (a figure supported by the National Pensioners' Convention) for all, irrespective of contribution record. Our proposals are fully costed, and the increase would be funded by progressive taxation and scrapping wasteful expenditure on (for example) Trident and ID cards.
Once I'd got over the first night nerves I ended up really enjoying the hustings - in fact I'm looking forward to the next one already!
Saturday, 17 April 2010
For those of you haven't seen it yet, here's the Green Party's excellent Party Election Broadcast. Should you feel so inclined, you can create your own personalised version too!
And while I'm catching up on national party stuff, just a reminder that our manifesto was launched this week and you can download that from the national party website.
Right, I'm off for a quick rest while the rest of the family are out leafletting!
This weekend we took delivery of a consignment of eye-catching "estate agent" style boards which we'll be putting up across Islington.
While I was carrying the wooden posts into the house, a young couple who were passing stopped me and asked if they could have one for their front garden. The guy marched off, with the sign (on a seven foot pole!) under his arm. It made my day!
Our leafletters will be out too this weekend - look out for the latest copy of Highbury Green News, on jobs, apprenticeships and education.
Thanks to everyone who's helping out, including those of you who have got in touch with Islington Green Party via the website by email to offer your time and effort on our behalf. And speaking of the website, don't forget you can download a window poster there too!
"What about women?" is the Fawcett Society's brilliant General Election campaign. As a Fawcett Society member, and sometime wearer of their lovely 'This is what a feminist looks like' t-shirt, I was absolutely thrilled this morning to receive my Election Special copy of the Fawcett magazine Stopgap. In the centre pages, the Fawcett's very own Leaders' Debate - with one very important difference! The first of the four leaders profiled is our very own Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party. As Caroline says,
as the only party with a female leader .. the Green Party has shown that we put our principles into practice. So when we say equality for all, we mean it.
My own interest in politics started with campaigning on women's issues, and human rights, back in my student days. Later, I wanted to see politicians getting serious about protecting the environment too. The really exciting thing for me is that the Green Party brings it all together. Fairness is not just part of the Green Party slogan - it's the common thread linking together gender equality, human rights, and the need to give everyone an equal share in the world's resources - now and in future generations.
Friday, 26 March 2010
In a live webchat on Mumsnet, the country’s most popular meeting point for parents on the internet, this afternoon (Friday 26 March), Dr Lucas committed:
-to halt with immediate effect the current process to close the Whittington A&E and maternity and ensure that all future plans are evidence-based, transparent, made publicly available and subject to extensive and meaningful public consultation
-not to close any A&E and maternity unit in North London until alternatives are firmly in place, have been sufficiently tested and proven by independent analysis not to have any averse effect on the treatment of patients
Sara Hall, expectant mother and local campaigner who is the author of the ‘Whittingtonmum’ blog, said:
"It is fantastic that Caroline Lucas has given us her commitment to halt the current proposals to close the 24-hour A&E and maternity services at the Whittington hospital. Local people are dismayed by the proposals: They are not based on evidence, not led by clinicians and not transparent. They must be stopped. I hope that Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown and David Cameron will follow the lead of Caroline Lucas and assure us, the residents of North London, that they will not allow our lives to be put at risk. We need their commitment to not close the Whittington A&E and maternity services should their party form the next government – our lives depend on it.”
Emma Dixon, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Islington North added:
“Politicians from all four parties locally have been working really hard to save the Whittington. Now it’s time for the party leaders to make it clear where they stand. Voters will want to know before the election what their votes will mean for the Whittington.”
Monday, 22 March 2010
Click here to see the video wall
A few weeks ago I had the rather unnerving experience of recording a video interview for Winkball who are aiming to record video messages from all the 2010 general election candidates.
Winkball's slogan is 'communicate happiness' - perhaps rather a tall order when screening a lot of politicians telling us how wonderful they are! Anyway, my Labour and Lib Dem opposite numbers have now recorded their contributions so you can have a look and see what you think. We'll let you know if and when the Conservative candidate has a go!
I recently signed up to Unison's excellent campaign, A Million Voices for Public Services. Celebrities including Jo Brand and Ken Livingstone as well as hundreds of ordinary people are speaking up for local public services now - before it's too late.
Sunday, 21 March 2010
We are about to start the election campaign which will decide who runs Islington for the next four years. Candidates from all parties will try to highlight their own party's achievements and claim credit for the things that are going right in Islington, while attempting not to recognise the contribution made by activists from other parties. But underneath the confrontational facade that is electoral politics in Britain, there will be over 200 individuals offering themselves to their community to spend four years as their representatives in the Council chamber.
Most of those individuals will not be elected, but many of them will continue to work for their communities - day in, day out - as Donna Boffa did for years before she became a councillor. As we begin this election campaign, let's take a moment to remember Donna and to celebrate the commitment that she made and hundreds of others continue to make to communities across Islington.
Thanks to all the volunteers (some of whom are pictured, right) who helped.
Meanwhile, some of us were out collecting even more signatures on our petition to make sure that Blackstock Road, Highbury Park and Highbury Grove are included in the borough-wide 20-mile-an-hour zone.
The Council adopted Cllr Katie Dawson's plan to become the country's first 20-mile-an-hour borough earlier in the year, but they've excluded some roads including Blackstock Road, Highbury Park and Highbury Grove.
Given that there are four primary schools, two secondary schools and two important shopping areas on this stretch of road - not to mention the hundreds of people who live here - we're getting great support for our campaign to bring the benefits of safer of streets to this part of the borough.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
On mothers' day, Gordon Brown went online with Netmums to make a series of 'promises'.
I'm a mathematician by training and maybe for that reason I am a bit sensitive about this sort of thing. Squashing or expanding the odd column (as the Lib Dems have done here and elsewhere) is bad enough - but missing one party off altogether reaches a new low.
Here's the true vote in Highbury East last time.
As far as we're concerned, Highbury East is a four-horse race, which any of the parties could win if they gain the electorate's confidence. I for one don't believe that graph abuse is the way to do it.
PS if you have access to a scanner, please do add any election leaflets that come through your door to the collection of The Straight Choice, the live election leaflet monitoring project. One aim of that project is to try to keep these leaflets honest!
Monday, 15 March 2010
Saturday, 13 March 2010
I must admit it's taken me a while to get round to blogging about our day with Cllr Adrian Ramsay, the Green Party deputy leader and one of our hopes for gaining an MP at the General Election (in Norwich South). He came down last Friday to see what we'd been up to here in Islington after hearing Caroline Lucas's praise for Cllr Katie Dawson in her speech to conference.
One of the places we took Adrian to visit was the Sobell Centre. Our Don't $ell the $obell campaign is fighting to keep the whole Sobell site in public ownership for sport and recreational use, against the wishes of both Labour and Lib Dem councillors. The Sobell is also where some of the programme of free sport for Islington's teenagers - another initiative by Cllr Katie in last year's budget - happens.
After the Sobell, it was off for a delicious lunch - soup and cheese toasties at Good for Food on the Blackstock Road.
Huge thanks to Adrian for coming down - and we all enjoyed listening to him on The World at One a few days later talking about the high-speed rail link!
Photo L to R: Caroline Russell (Green Party team, Highbury West), Lee Warsame (Sobell User Rep), Cllr Adrian Ramsay (Green Party Deputy Leader), Barry Hill (Sobell User Rep), Cllr Katie Dawson.
Friday, 12 March 2010
Just back from the House of Commons where Councillor Katie and I had a lovely time drinking tea in the Members' Dining Room and listening to the amazing Annie Lennox speak in support of Save the Children's A Minute for Mothers campaign. We each laid a white rose outside the Houses of Parliament to symbolise the lives lost each day by mothers during pregnancy and childbirth.
After the speeches I managed to shake Annie Lennox by the hand and thank her for her public support for the Green Party. She told me she always votes Green because it's what she believes in.
Annie's message to us when we told her that Greens were on track to elect our first MP this year in Brighton? "Go Girls!!"
Photo by Richard Stonehouse, Stonehouse Photographic www.stonehousephotographic.com
Wednesday, 10 March 2010
To see the video (and other entrants) click here
And I'm not saying what I voted for...
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
So, I'm looking out of my window and I can see the lights of the Emirates stadium shine brightly in the distance and I begin to think about a posting Caroline Lucas put up on her blog at the weekend.
Caroline asks what it would take for voters to switch after a lifetime of support for a party.
Coming from a family of Arsenal supporters, the idea of switching to Spurs is not worth thinking about, but what if Arsenal decided to become a rugby team? Could I say that I supported them as my football team?
Under Labour, the gap between rich and poor has grown, bankers are still able to reward themselves with huge bonuses and the NHS is being privatised through the backdoor. This isn't the fairness that the party originally stood for and I thought it was about time I voted for one that did.
I decided to make a switch and to vote for a party that really believes in fairness.
Thursday, 4 March 2010
http://bit.ly/a4su1B letter to Tribune re application withdrawn 26 Feb 2010
http://bit.ly/cJqjAt Tribune coverage botanist Mark Spencer 26 Feb 2010
http://bit.ly/baGVDh Islington Gazette coverage 10th Dec 1009
http://bit.ly/dCHeH0 Letter to Islington Tribune 6th November 2009
http://bit.ly/9oAhND Islington Tribune coverage 23rd October 2009
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
We've been campaigning for a while now to save this precious gem, a hidden area of rare grassland in the heart of Highbury at the NCH/Action for Children site on Highbury Park. The garden, which has never been built on, lies between Lucerne Rd, Legard Rd and Avenell Mansions and has been subject to a planning application which would build 149 housing units at the site, destroying the grassland forever.
Monday, 1 March 2010
My children were up early on Saturday morning making banners. I was supposed to be preparing my speech for the rally but I ended up on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor painting a black cat on my daughter's banner (James pictured here putting the finishing touches with a needle & thread). Then off to Highbury Corner in the rain..
The Green Party team for the local elections on 6th May consists of Cllr Katie Dawson and local campaigners Jon Nott and Caroline Russell in Highbury West ward. In Highbury East ward your Green candidates are Emma Dixon, James Humphreys and Andrew Myer.