Homes in estate garages ‘not fit for pigs’
14 February, 2020 — By Calum Fraser
FURIOUS elderly residents have said that the council is stuffing people into homes that are unfit for humans after plans to convert garages on an award-winning estate into flats were given the green light this week.
A long-running battle between scores of families living in Morland Mews, just off Liverpool Road, and the Barnsbury Housing Association came to a head this week as the council rubber-stamped plans to seize 33 garages on the estate and build seven flats instead.
A petition with more than 150 signatures was delivered to the council opposing the scheme, saying it will overcrowd the area.
But the council and BHA have defended the decision made at the Town Hall on Tuesday as it provides seven homes all at affordable rent that will offer some reprieve to the near 14,000 people on Islington’s housing waiting list.
“I am incandescent with rage after the fiasco at the Town Hall,” Robin Don, who is in his 60s and has lived on the estate for 45 years, said.
“The garages have no light and any apartments built in there will be looking out onto brick walls. It is not habitable for humans, even pigs would throw up their food in horror.”
The estate, which was built in the early 1970s and won a government “Good Design in Housing” award in 1976, was the brainchild of famous Islington architect Kenneth Pring who also helped set up by the BHA.
Ron Lord, 85, who has lived in the estate since 1875 and worked as the maintenance manager for 25 years, said: “They have made us feel like non-entities. When I was part of the maintenance committee we always communicated well with residents. We made sure we were all together in what was happening on the estate.
“Now the whole thing has become more corporate and BHA acts like a secret service imposing these plans on us with barely any proper communication and consultation.
“The first we knew about the plans a bunch of workers turned up on a Sunday morning and started digging holes in our garages.”
Initially, BHA submitted plans for 16 homes to be built in the garages but this has come down to seven since 2017.
Barnsbury Road resident James Dunnet, who is an architect, said at the meeting on Tuesday: “Due to poor standards of light, outlook, security, plus low ceilings, the garages are far from suitable for conversion to separate dwellings by the standards of the London Plan.”
Several applications have been made over the years to convert the garages into homes by residents, but they were rejected by the council. But in 2010 the council’s decision was overturned by a planning inspectorate, and four garages were converted into an extension.
Most of the garages are not used for parking cars but for storage by the residents the planning inspectorate found.
A BHA spokesman said: “The council’s decision recognises the critical need for genuinely affordable homes with ground-floor access in Islington.
“This is personal for a lot of our tenants at Morland Mews and we’re pleased the council has agreed to let us put them to the front of the queue for these new flats when they are complete.
“The planning committee’s approval follows extensive changes over the last three years to our original proposal in direct response to tenant feedback.”
The council declined to comment.