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Agenda item

Questions from Members of the Public


Question (a) from Helena Farstad to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


At the Full Council on the 27th June 2019 when Islington Council declared a Climate and Ecological Emergency, I asked the Executive Member for Transport and Environment at the time, Cllr Webbe, about Islington Council's plans with regard to communicating this important decision of reaching Net Zero by 2030. The answer was satisfactory and promising, however, nearly 20 months later it is deeply disappointing that so little seems to have been done to inform the residents of Islington that we find ourselves in an emergency. An emergency that has in fact caused, and will have even greater implications than, the Coronavirus pandemic. It is of course understandable that a communication campaign setting out in detail what the council is planning to do to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 would need time to develop, however, communicating the basic, why we are in an emergency, why it matters and why the council needs to take new measures, would not be dependent on a plan. Other than a two page spread in Islington life promoting a shift to EV and calling for more recycling, I cannot recall seeing anything meaningful or comprehensive.  


I wonder whether Cllr Champion thinks it is about time Islington Council and the current Labour administration starts telling the truth, unpalatable as it may be, about the Environmental Emergency we are all facing?




Thank you for your question. I think we have been very clear we are facing an environmental emergency, which is why we made a declaration of climate emergency in June 2019. Following consultation, we have now published our Vision 2030 strategy which includes action plan. It’s also why the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee are holding their second public meeting to discuss this issue next month. Officers who are leading on this work will attend the meeting and it’s a really good opportunity to discuss the work we are doing. In the budget we are voting on tonight, we are investing more than £17m in projects related to our Vision 2030 strategy. That includes over £6m to develop more People Friendly Streets. Another example is the work we are doing to electrify our own fleet, which means installing multimillion pound infrastructure at Council sites. Of course it has been an extraordinary year, but aside from the pandemic our single biggest communications campaign this year has been the People Friendly Streets programme rolled out in June. Since the summer the Council has put out communications across all of its corporate channels to explain its commitment to tackle the climate emergency and why it matters to us. We are already underway to develop a new communications campaign to raise awareness of the themes and commitments of the Vision 2030 strategy. We will engage residents, businesses and partners on this issue.


Question (b) from Lucy Facer to Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Housing & Development


The Islington Council draft transport policy shows the Councils’ commitment to reducing air pollution through greening initiatives such as ‘Seek opportunities to use trees and planting to separate residents, pedestrians and cyclists from motor traffic’. The removal of mature trees at Dixon Clark Court at Highbury Corner, where there are illegal levels of air pollution, will remove this important barrier of trees for council tenants and Canonbury primary school. In addition, new homes will be built directly onto the road, exposing these residents to dangerous levels of pollution that cause chronic health risks.


Why is the council continuing to allow the removal of mature green barriers, in a particularly toxic location in the borough, when your transport policy highlights the importance of improving the green environment in Islington in order to reduce air pollution and protect the health of its residents? New homes are needed in the borough but is it acceptable to implement new schemes that will have long lasting detrimental effects to residents health caused by increased exposure to illegal levels of air pollution?




Thank you for your question. Islington Council is determined to tackle the housing crisis in our borough that has led to 14,000 households on the housing waiting list. We are also committed to tackling the climate emergency. Dixon Clark Court will provide 25 desperately needed new council homes and will also increase the number of trees on the site, include environmentally important landscape improvements, and planting of shrubs, wildflowers and wild grasses that will help to improve local wildlife. This green-screen will held to deflect particulate pollution. In addition, the new homes will have mechanical ventilation and heat recovery units installed, which include filters to improve internal air quality. Trees and greenspace are an important part of our plan to create a greener and healthier Islington, which is why we are determined to improve canopy cover as we tackle the housing crisis, while we build affordable council homes for local people in need.


Question (c) from Harry Nugent to Councillor Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:


With yet another increase of knife crime in Islington recently, what have the council done in the budget to help educate people of the realities and effects knife crime has?




Your question refers to an increase in knife crime in Islington. However, since 2007 our partnership working has seen the number of knife crime injury victims under 25 fall by more than 46%. We have also seen improvements in other areas such as decreases in youth violence and robbery. We know that one victim of knife crime is one too many and we must do everything we can to keep young people and communities safe. So despite a decade of cuts to Islington’s funding by the government, we have protected youth provision in our budget. Since 2016, we have invested £2m over a four year period into targeted youth services to help tackle these issues. Since then, in light of our successful partnership approach, we have protected that additional £500k a year investment, incorporating it into our budget every year.


In December, the Council adopted the new Youth Safety Strategy, building on the progress made with new initiatives to tackle the issues that fuel youth crime, including domestic violence, school exclusions, and social, emotional and mental health challenges that young people in the borough face. To support the Youth Safety Strategy, a new film Love and Loss was produced and we have been working with schools to promote it. The film features bereaved families from the Love and Loss Group; mothers, fathers, siblings and cousins who bravely share their experiences of losing a child within their family. They want to support and educate young people to make safer choices, and want the film to be shared as widely as possible. I urge everyone at this meeting to see it and get others to see it. It is profoundly moving and a really important piece of work. Other projects we have led on include projects to reduce the number of knives in the community. We now have knife bins installed across the borough. There is also a ‘no knives’ shop campaign that engages local businesses. We are committed to engaging with the Mayor of London to keep everyone in our borough safe and ending needless loss of life, as we saw in January when Romario Opia was tragically killed.


The Mayor advised that Questions (d) and (e) would receive a combined response.


Question (d) from John Hartley to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport


The recent report from Transport for All, “Pave the Way”, rightly made the case that any changes to road infrastructure should always be designed with people with disabilities in mind. People can be disabled in many different ways: not all drive and not all use mobility scooters. The designers need to speak to the disabled to discover what works and doesn’t work for them. What is the Council doing to ensure that People Friendly Streets delivers the most benefit to people with disabilities?


Question (e) from Pierre Delarue to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Will the Executive Member list all the Disability Equality Impact Assessments that were carried out before the implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTN) schemes over the last year? How did those assessments affect the design of the schemes and improve the mobility of those residents who because of age, illness or disability find active travel more difficult?


Combined response:


Thank you for your questions. We have carried out a Resident Impact Assessment that considers the impacts on residents with protected characteristics, including those with disabilities. The Resident Impact Assessments for the People Friendly Streets Schemes are available on our website. Each assessment sets out the actions we have taken to prevent any negative impacts. In Islington, approximately 16% of people identify as disabled. Any changes we make as a council that impact on disabled people are carefully considered. The Pave the Way report makes it clear that meaningful engagement with disabled people in the community is needed when implementing low traffic neighbourhoods. As identified in the impact assessment, the Council is committed to focused engagement with groups that represent those with disabilities. Some of this has already taken place and more in depth engagement will take place in future. The report also highlights that low traffic neighbourhoods have a number of benefits for disabled residents, including less danger due to traffic, less noise, easier and more pleasant journeys, and improved physical and mental health. Quieter, safer and healthier streets reap benefits for all. High traffic volumes prevent many people from choosing more sustainable forms of transport such as walking, cycling and wheeling and this applies just as much to people with disabilities as to those who do not have them. Traffic volumes in Islington are far too high and increasing, impacting on people with disabilities who do need to use motorised vehicles, as it does people who walk, wheel, cycle, or use public transport. It’s always worth repeating the statistic that 24.3 million more miles were driven in Islington in 2019 than 2013, an increase of around 10%. Young people, less mobile people and people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by busy, noisy and unsafe streets. We are also looking to see what specific action we can take to improve conditions for disabled people across the borough, including dropped kerbs, tactile paving and footway improvements. Islington in partnership with Camden also provides a service called ScootAbility which loans mobility scooters to residents. These changes are intended to encourage people with disabilities to participate in more active travel.


The Mayor advised that questions (f), (g) and (h) would receive a combined response.


Question (f) from Rachael Swynnerton to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


It is fantastic that the Council have committed to reducing traffic across the borough to improve road safety and air quality through with the introduction of the People Friendly Streets scheme.  We are very much in support of these measures. The council have confirmed they are monitoring the impact of these schemes as they go in. Please can they provide details of their monitoring process and confirm when data will be made available for public consumption?


Question (g) from Helen Redesdale to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


In Tufnell Park, barriers were installed some years ago on Huddleston and Dalmeny Roads to exclude through traffic. Residents now enjoy quieter, less polluted streets. Collecting and sharing data on new Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) will help residents understand the environmental benefits of these schemes. What data has been used to design the recent schemes - and what metrics are being used to monitor impact on for example, air quality and traffic volume in the surrounding area and will the Executive Member commit to publishing all data the Council holds on air quality and traffic levels in and around LTNs?


Question (h) from Jeremy Drew to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


When does Council expect to release its first report on monitoring of the St Peter St People Friendly Street, which ended its first 6 months on January 3rd?


Combined response:


Thank you. Analysis the impact of People Friendly Streets is an important part of what we are doing, as is our consultation and engagement with local people. We are happy with how the schemes have been rolled out, but we are looking forward to analysing the data as it becomes available. As part of the monitoring strategy for each scheme, traffic cameras are installed prior to the implementation of each neighbourhood, both in the neighbourhood itself and on surrounding roads, and at various intervals. Air quality is being monitored in each neighbourhood and the council is also collecting data on congestion, anti-social behaviour and emergency response times. The council will analyse data, also taking into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the figures. Monitoring data will held to inform what measures are needed to be made permanent after the trial period. In relation to St Peter’s, the council is undertaking a peer review on the interim monitoring report, this will be published as soon as possible. We do want to ensure our findings are robust and accurate and that is why we are seeking a peer review.


Question (i) from Kate Pothalingam to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Islington Liberal Democrats welcome the news that the Council will be consulting residents in Mildmay about the proposed new Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) in that area, as we have proposed. Will the Executive Member confirm that Islington Council will take a consistent approach and will commit to consulting residents and community groups, for example by using Citizen’s Assemblies, before any other new LTNs are implemented, e.g. in Barnsbury?




Thank you. I’m very glad to hear you support the work in Mildmay on People Friendly Streets. I am a bit confused though on what you are supporting, as on your website you are running a petition against the changes, and are calling for the use of cameras to allow residents to access their own streets. Our LTNs are specifically designed to allow resident access. Our schemes also stop residents, children and adults alike, from being put off walking and cycling. You have to make people feel safe, and to do that you have to change the look and feel of the streets, as I think our schemes have done. Effectively allowing residents to drive through filters dilutes the benefits of the scheme and will do nothing to reduce traffic on the main roads. In terms of the consultation you mention, aside from the surveys and website, I have attended a number of ward partnership meetings with officers. We also listen to resident feedback received on the trial. After a year we will undertake a full consultation with local people on if they want us to keep, change or scrap the scheme. It is an exciting time for Mildmay and there is very significant financial investment in the area despite consistent cuts to the council’s budget over the last decade from national government. 


Question (j) from Maria Gallastegui to Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Housing & Development:


We are very alarmed at the persistent tree felling program that appears to be spreading, not just in Islington, but all over London and beyond. This seems to be driven by the lack of social housing ....or is it? I feel that the council are acting in a reckless manner as we are in a confirmed Climate Emergency. The very poor re-modelling of the Highbury Corner roundabout has left it 17 trees less, and a higher pollution level. This lack of planning is unacceptable. Dixon Court stands to lose 7 trees, which is on a school run.


We say HOMES AND TREES! There is huge empty capacity in London to rehouse everyone. Many Europeans are returning home and Londoner's leaving London. With Covid, so many buildings will become disused. Why destroy what little open space we have left and fell trees for no REAL reason?




Thank you for your question. Islington Council is determined to deliver decent, secure and genuinely affordable homes. The Dixon Clark Court development will deliver 25 new council homes for local people. This scheme is a big step towards our ambitious target of 500 new council homes by 2022. Part of Islington’s largest council home building programme in a generation. Trees play an absolutely vital role in tackling the climate emergency and helping us to achieve our ambitious target of net zero carbon by 2030. We have just under 40,000 publicly managed trees is Islington and the borough currently has canopy cover of 25%, which is better than the London average of 21% and the UK average of 17%. The council never takes decisions to remove trees lightly, an assessment is always made before permission is given for removal, and we have also pledged to replace more trees than are removed. We are planting a total of 63 new trees to replace the six that will be removed at Dixon Clark Court. This means that we will exceed the amount of carbon absorption from the felled trees, as well as providing hedgerow and landscape improvements. I completely agree that we need homes and trees, and that’s why we are providing both for local people.

Question (k) from Dominic Martin to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


Successful Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) schemes require the support of the people who live in the LTN area. The Council plans to consult residents about the recently rolled-out LTN schemes in St. Peter’s, Canonbury and Highbury within 12-18 months of implementation. If the feedback from that consultation indicates that residents would like to see exemptions to camera filters using Automatic Numberplate Recognition (ANPR) technology, and/or if Disability Groups request this, will the Executive Member commit to (a) introducing ANPR technology in existing LTNs and to (b) using ANPR technology in future LTN schemes in Barnsbury and elsewhere, as Islington Liberal Democrats have proposed?




I will refer to my previous answer. It’s important for residents to have a say in how measures are working, and we have chosen to implement the schemes in a way that allows an opportunity to consider feedback after 12 months. I am sure people will make a number of submissions on aspects such as ANPR. The problem is, as I said earlier, there are very good reasons not to exempt residents from the filters. Creating a safer environment for all really means changing how the road feels. If private vehicles are still able to travel through then we will not see the benefits on air quality and noise pollution. We need people to feel safe. If you travel through those neighbourhoods now, you can see people using the streets in a different way, and that is what we want. We must also reduce congestion and air pollution on the main roads, the objective of People Friendly Streets is to reduce the overall number of trips, not to simply displace traffic from side streets onto other roads. If you give local people exemptions, it would be easier for them to drive around as there is less traffic on those side roads. We really need to do something fundamentally different and show people that streets can be community spaces; we can only do that if we change how those spaces are used and how those spaces feel. We are consulting and we will listen to feedback, but we need to be doing something for the people of Islington.


Question (l) from Zak Vora to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


The ill-planned Highbury Corner road system has seen continual road works for several years leading to no improvement in traffic flow. With the intended new flats being built on the corner, where currently stand much loved trees, leading to further traffic disruption and congestion, what assurances will the Council make regarding the building work and its impact on local residents and businesess along with traffic flow?




Thank you. We are trying to do something very different with Highbury Corner. Previously it was a roundabout designed to get traffic through as quickly as possible, discounting the needs of people who were walking or cycling. Previously, if I was going around Highbury Corner, I would always get off my bike. The works at Highbury Corner have encouraged and enabled walking and cycling.


The traffic arrangements at Highbury Corner are controlled by TFL, but we are working closely with them, and we have highlighted concerns which residents, councillors and officers have raised. TFL is committed to carrying out a review of the arrangements at Highbury Corner; however unfortunately this work has been delayed because of Covid. It does remain a priority for us and TFL to address this as soon as possible. The council is building new homes on the nearby Dixon Clark Court estate, and the contractor has produced a construction and environmental management plan to minimise the impact on local residents and the nearby Canonbury Primary School. They are a member of the ‘Considerate Contractor’ scheme and will use best practice through the build, including the use of a resident liaison officer to be a point of contact for local people.


Question (m) from Ernestas Jegorovas-Armstrong to Councillor Gill, Executive Member for Finance & Performance:


How has the council supported its employees who are working from home?




Thank you for your question. The past year has been tough for everyone and large numbers of Islington Council staff have been working from home since March 2020. We have a clear policy for staff to work at home wherever possible. Staff are provided with guidance to help them with remote working tools, training on video calls, and advice and guidance on working safely at home. We have a Wellbeing Hub on our intranet with support and advice, signposting to free support such as our Employee Assistance Programme. I’d also like to thank our trade union colleagues for the work they have done in supporting and helping us over the last year. We have set up systems to enable staff to keep in touch with one another while working at home. Employees are able to order desks, monitors and ergonomic chairs for home delivery and we are also directing staff to the government portal to claim tax relief on additional costs of heating and electricity.


Question (n) from Devon Osborne to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport:


In line with the Mayor of London’s 2017 initiative and with special reference to the pollution benefits of mature verses sapling trees, what are the council’s current plans to improve Islington’s tree canopy?




Thank you. We know that trees play a vital role in the life of local people; our own tree officers feel very passionately about them too. We have committed to increasing the borough’s canopy cover from 25% to 27% by 2030. The London average is 21% at the moment. We have committed funds to tree planting and this is covered in both our Vision 2030 document and also our biodiversity action plan. We will do so by maintaining the trees we have, planting where trees are lost, and planting more where we can.



Question (o) from John Ackers to Councillor Lukes, Executive Member for Community Safety:


There have been reports on nextdoor about bike hangars being broken into e.g. Battledean Road on Nov 18th, 2020 and also Aberdeen Road on Mar 19th 2019, Arlington Square. I believe that bikes are being removed by thieves using cordless grinders to cut the owners D locks.  How many bikes have been stolen from bike hangars?




Thank you. Installing more bike hangars is part of our commitment to creating a greener, healthier, cleaner Islington by encouraging more people to cycle. Unfortunately, on the issue of bike thefts, the data is recorded by the Police and the data is not held in such a way that we can establish how many are stolen from bike hangars. However, we are aware of thefts from hangars and we are looking at ways to improve their security. All of our Cycle Hoop hangars have been updated with shields, and new hangars will be to a higher spec with improved security.



Question (p) Eilidh Murray to Councillor Champion, Executive Member for Environment & Transport: 


Can the council explain how chopping down mature frees in different locations in the borough delivers to their declaration of a climate emergency delivered publicly with such conviction in June 2019 on the steps of the Town Hall with our two MPs in attendance ?




Thank you. Unfortunately we do lose mature trees every year; this can be for a variety of reasons including end of life and disease. We do have robust processes to protect and monitor our trees and we have very passionate and experienced officers in this regard. They will challenge tree removal and we have a policy that sets out when we will and when we won’t remove trees. Where trees are being removed, we work to ensure adequate mitigation. We also seek funding to plant trees where we can and are working to secure increased canopy cover and the associated benefits.


Question (q) from Meg Howarth to Councillor Ward, Executive Member for Housing & Development:


How can the loss of the Dixon Clark Court ‘little forest’ of 52-year-old mature trees - a Highbury Corner public-realm amenity - be justified for a maximum additional 25 council homes on the estate, a number likely to be further reduced by the Right to Buy?





Thank you. Demand for council housing massively outstrips supply in our borough; more than 14,000 households are on our housing register, including those who are homeless or in extremely overcrowded conditions. We are working to address this very serious issue and building 25 new council homes at Dixon Clark Court will help with this. We are currently undertaking the largest council home building programme in a generation. Since we came to power in 2010 we have been building as many affordable council homes as possible and this includes building on garages, car parks and at areas like Dixon Clark Court. I entirely agree that Right to Buy is a terrible policy and if we had our way we would abolish it. Housing homeless families must be our priority. I would be delighted if you joined us in campaigning to scrap the Right to Buy to make sure we have affordable homes in our borough.

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