Enforcement action underway against multiple bedsits and over-crammed flats on Caledonian Road
“Build first, ask for permission later” is the startling phrase uttered by Andrew Panayi, the man who owns a large part of the properties on the Caledonian Rd. His admission was made in a startling interview screened last night on the BBC programme “The Secret History of Our Streets: Caledonian Road”.
In response to Mr Panayi’s claims, Islington Council has revealed that planning enforcement and environmental health action is underway on several of his properties. Indeed the Council has successfully prosecuted Mr Panayi for persistent breaches. Later in the TV programme, Mr Panayi concedes that he’s been more compliant with planning requirements “in the past 4 years”.
Over the last quarter of a century, Mr Panayi has built a small property empire by buying-up run-down shops located in the area between Richmond Avenue and Pentonville Prison. He probably owns around a third of all the commercial properties on this part of Caledonian Road – and his portfolio includes two of the three public houses – the Prince and the Tarman.
He has made his fortune by maximising the amount of residential accommodation above, behind and even below these shops. Many of the shops are unlet because, for Andrew, the real money is in the bedsits or shared flats he can rent-out on short lets. A favoured letting agent is Alpha Accomodation at 376 Caledonian Rd who specialise in attracting highly mobile young tenants who – as the lettings agent himself admits in the TV programme – aren’t likely to complain.
These tenants are overwhelmingly young people visiting London for just a few months whilst working or studying. The residents of these flats and bedsits are therefore highly mobile and the lettings turn-over is very high indeed. This makes the Cally Road feel very transient and weakens the feeling of community. People who have lived in the area for a long time feel “their place” is being undermined by this high turnover population. The quality of accommodation these tenants live-in is very poor and, although they may not complain, understandably most of them do not stay long.
Cllr Paul Convery comments “Andrew Panayi is well known on the Cally and is a likeable, larger than life character. But some of his business practices are distinctly suspect – as he himself admits in the TV programme. And he is wrong to think he can get away with this. The Council is currently taking enforcement action on a number of properties he has built recently. Recently we opposed a particularly large development to construct another floor of bedsits above the Co-op and the planning permission was refused.
Over the last 10 years or so, it is clear that the Council’s planners simply did not have the determination to challenge and enforce against these sorts of planning breaches. Nor did they get the signal from the Town Hall or elected local politicians to do so. However, the current Caledonian Councillors and the Town Hall leadership does have the political will to bring enforcement action.”
To view the programme on BBC iPlayer go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01k6k3m/The_Secret_History_of_Our_Streets_Caledonian_Road/