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Fighting off Paddy Power betting shop on Cally – Camden Council wins landmark appeal

June 8, 2016
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Paul Convery and Una O’Halloran outside the premises at 325 Caledonian Road.

The campaign to prevent Paddy Power opening a betting shop on Caledonian Road received a boost this week. The gambling company has lost a planning appeal to take over a similar shop premises in Kilburn.

In December 2015, Islington Council denied planning permission to open a betting shop but Paddy Power has appealed. This would have been the third in a cluster of betting shops, with Ladbrokes at 291 Caledonian Road and William Hill at number 312.

A planning inspector will hold a case hearing on 27th July and Islington Council will vigorously defend its decision.

Islington Council’s argument has been strengthened by a case in Kilburn where Paddy Power failed to convince a planning inspector. Camden Council had refused permission on grounds very similar to Islington: adverse effect on the retail character of the area; and the impact from over-concentration of gambling premises.

Caledonian ward councillors had originally opposed the plans and have now submitted evidence to the appeal inspector.

Paul Convery adds “there’s nothing wrong with a flutter, but these betting shops are promoting hardcore gambling. And Paddy Power seems to be one of the most aggressive firms pushing the gambling habit in areas where the least affluent people live.”

Cally Councillors back-up David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, who recently condemned the gambling industry for opening yet more betting shops with Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs): “These provide almost half of bookmakers’ over-counter profits, making them by far the single biggest income stream in retail sales. These machines have been dubbed “the crack cocaine of gambling”, enabling punters to stake up to £300 a minute or £18,000 an hour. Betting shops encourage this reckless gambling with lines of free credit to punters who win more”.

Paddy Power has been singled-out for aggressive expansion of shops with FOBT machines. A study published in March 2016 revealed that Paddy Power is targeting areas with a high percentage of ethnic minorities with FOBT  machines. The data shows that 61% of Paddy Power’s 349 betting shops are located in the highest minority ethnic areas.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has  criticised Paddy Power for concentrating their business on “almost every area of London with high non-UK-born populations. This isn’t chasing footflow – it’s targeting the most vulnerable people. It is disgraceful behaviour and reinforces why we must deal with the proliferation of betting shops in disadvantaged areas, and the addictive roulette machines which can cause so much misery.”

Earlier this year, Paddy Power was forced to pay £280,000 to a “socially responsible” cause after the Gambling Commission found it had encouraged a problem gambler to keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children. It was criticised for “failing to keep crime out of gambling and protect vulnerable people”.

The Planning Inspector’s decision which endorsed Camden Council’s refusal of planning permission can be read here.

We must clean the air around schools in Cally

May 19, 2016
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Heavy traffic on Copenhagen Street is one of the sources of air pollution for 2 primary schools and a nursery

Cally Councillors have announced 5 practical measures to cut the air pollution affecting primary schools in the neighbourhood.

This follows the news that 4 of the worst 20 hit primary schools in London are in the Kings Cross area: Argyle, Blessed Sacrament, Copenhagen and Winton.

On Tuesday 17th May, London’s new Mayor Sadiq Khan released a 2013 report which former Mayor Johnson was accused of having “buried”.

The report revealed that, throughout London, the primary schools most affected by air pollution are the ones which overwhelmingly serve the most disadvantaged areas and populations of London.

Mayor Khan has declared London’s toxic air represents an emergency comparable to the Great London Smogs of the 1950s. Mayor Khan has said that “we need big, bold and sometimes difficult policies if London is to match the scale of the challenge”. Khan has pledged to:

  • Extend the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)
  • Start work on a diesel scrappage scheme
  • Require all HGVs in London to meet ULEZ standards
  • Clean-up London’s buses

Working with the Mayor, Cally Councillors have promised five practical, local responses to  reduce pollution which will benefit Blessed Sacrament and Copenhagen schools:

  • A road narrowing to enforce the much flouted HGV ban on Copenhagen Street
  • Actively support TfL’s plans to remove the gyratory system around Kings Cross
  • Deal with the standing traffic on York Way (caused by Goods Way blockages)
  • Demand that Network Rail stop static diesel trains at KX station from running engines
  • Implement a scheme with the Canals and Rivers Trust to prevent moored boats from emitting wood smoke and diesel fumes.

Cllr Paul Convery says “Pollution around Kings Cross is bad but it was a shock to realise how severely this affects schools in our area. The main sources of pollution are diesel HGVs, buses and vans. In the short term, we need measures to stop these vehicles travelling through our neighbourhood. In the long term, I back Mayor Khan’s policies to fundamentally reduce the volume and types of dirty vehicles driving in London.”

Cally Labour Councillor is elected Deputy Mayor of Islington

May 17, 2016
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(L-R) Paul, Una and Rupert pictured following the Annual Council meeting

We are very proud to announce that Cllr Una O’Halloran has been elected the Deputy Mayor of Islington. She will deputise for this year’s Mayor Cllr Kat Fletcher and will, following usual precedent, become Mayor in 2017-2018.

The new Mayor and Deputy were elected and sworn-in at the Council’s Annual Meeting on May 12th. At that same meeting Cllr Paul Convery stepped-down from the Council’s ruling Executive committee after 6 years’ service.

Over the next two years – as Deputy Mayor and Mayor – Una will of course continue to discharge all her duties as a ward Councillor for Cally including her regular advice “surgeries” at Westbourne Community Centre.

Both Paul and Rupert warmly welcomed Una’s election as Deputy Mayor. Rupert served as Mayor in 1997/98 and knows the small but significant benefits which our neighbourhood will enjoy as a result of having Una in the “first citizen” role.

Paul Convery adds: “Una was born and raised in the south of Islington and has been actively involved in community affairs for 20 years. Before she was elected in May 2014, Una was chair of her local tenants association, the Safer Neighbourhood Panel and local Housing Panel. She is actively involved in two local churches and is also a school governor. She has already proven herself to be a  great Councillor working hard for the people on the Cally. Una has got her feet firmly planted on the ground. When she was first elected I remember her say, with great modesty, that she is ‘an ordinary person who wants to work hard for people like herself’. She will be a great Deputy Mayor and then Mayor in 2017-18.”

Cement company pledges to take its trucks off Copenhagen Street.

April 26, 2016
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Cement mixers and other HGVs servicing Cemex plants have routinely been using Copenhagen Street

One of the largest cement companies operating in the Kings Cross area has instructed its drivers to comply with the HGV ban on Copenhagen Street.

This follows complaints to Cemex that its drivers routinely use Copenhagen Street as a route for HGVs heading towards construction sites east of the Angel.

Copenhagen Street, which has 3 schools on it, is a convenient short cut for trucks heading to and from the Cemex plants off York Way.

In response, Cemex managers have agreed to instruct their drivers to stop using Copenhagen Street and have specifically promised:

  • All drivers from their two plants have been instructed not to use this route and required to sign a printed copy of the email to indicate their acknowledgement.
  • The company’s Operations Supervisor has visited both plants and personally instructed drivers;
  • All delivery dockets will bear the instruction not to use Copenhagen Street
  • All the vehicles are GPS tracked so any driver using Copenhagen Street “will be disciplined” according to the company.

Cally Councillor Paul Convery says “Cemex is the first of the cement manufacturers to take action and I thank them. Copenhagen Street has had a 7.5 tonne lorry ban for many years but HGV drivers have increasingly been using it as a short cut. Next on the list is Hanson which also has a batching plant west of York Way and its drivers also use Copenhagen Street.”

“Getting a company to voluntarily abide by the lorry ban is a start. But our longer term goal is to have a physical width restriction that will prevent all HGVs from entering Copenhagen Street near to its York Way entrance.”

Removing the Kings Cross gyratory system: public consultation begins

February 8, 2016

Removal of the one-way traffic gyratory systems around Kings Cross takes a decisive step forward with the beginning of a 6 week consultation by Transport for London (TfL) with Islington and Camden councils. The objectives of the scheme are to create a better overall environment, reduce traffic impacts and to give priority to pedestrians, residents and cyclists – whilst also making the road system simpler for vehicles.

KX proposed road system

The initial “concept” plan has been unveiled (map above, click to enlarge) which will return most of the roads around Kings Cross to conventional 2-way working. The main benefits will be to the residential roads such as Acton Street and Swinton Street in Camden and Wharfdale Road in Islington. These residential roads which currently take up to 10,000 vehicles a day are home to hundreds of people who live experience some of London’s highest levels of pollution.

The TfL scheme also proposes a network of safe and “quiet” cycle routes through the area which will protect cyclists from the most congested parts of the Kings Cross intersections.

Caledonian ward Councillor, Paul Convery says: “This consultation represents a very significant step forward. The one way systems have blighted Kings Cross for decades. They are relics of an era in the 1970s when road planners saw Kings Cross as a place only suitable for speedily moving large numbers of vehicles through.

“Today Kings Cross is Europe’s busiest transport interchange, a large new business centre and a high density residential neighbourhood. Despite all the changes to the area, Kings Cross remains dominated by traffic and congestion. It’s now time to calm the traffic, take vehicles off the residential roads and create an area in which pedestrians, public transport and cyclists have priority.

“But we cannot underestimate how complicated this will be. It is the most challenging surface transport project that TfL has ever undertaken. The two boroughs and TfL have already done a great deal of preparatory work and the concept is proven to be feasible. But we need the public to help shape the next stage to design a scheme for implementation.”

Consultation details on Islington Council’s website www.islington.gov.uk/kingscross and on TfL’s at https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/kings-cross-gyratory

Transport for London drops plan to close Caledonian Road tube station

January 19, 2016
Cllr Claudia Webbe with Cllr Paul Smith, left, and Cllr Paul Convery

Cllr Claudia Webbe with Cllr Paul Smith, left, and Cllr Paul Convery

Transport for London (TfL) has dropped its plan to close Caledonian Road tube station for 8 months from March after Islington Council threatened a High Court legal challenge.

The dispute occurred after TfL refused to consider an alternative plan for replacing the station’s two lifts. TfL wanted an 8 month total closure. But Islington proposed replacing them one at a time, thereby keeping the station open during the works.

Islington Council’s executive member for environment and transport, Cllr Claudia Webbe, said: “We welcome TfL’s climb down, which shows the council was correct in starting legal proceedings against the decision to close the station for eight months.

TfL says “it would be a waste of public money to fight the council’s legal action” but this is not accurate. TfL caved-in within 4 working days of receiving Islington’s Judicial Review action. They got speedy legal advice which warned transport bosses they had no chance of winning.

TfL says it “will now work with the council to find a solution” and this is very positive indeed. Islington says the lifts can be replaced one at a time and TfL engineers have admitted this is perfectly feasible.

On a typical weekday, almost 10,000 people a day enter and exit the station. The disruption caused by this closure would have been considerable. TfL admitted that most passengers would make an alternative journey via Kings Cross underground station using the already congested bus routes down Caledonian Road.

Cllr Paul Convery adds “the public campaign against this closure shows that TfL cannot afford to ignore its passengers, but sadly TfL bosses did exactly that. The only sat up to pay attention when Islington Council threatened legal action. I want to thank my colleagues Claudia Webbe, Richard Watts and Holloway Councillor, Paul Smith, for their determination and leadership in securing this unprecedented climb-down by TfL.”

 

We can stop TfL closing Caledonian Road underground station for 8 months: sign the online petition

November 18, 2015
Caledonian Road underground station passengers protesting, November 4th.

Caledonian Road underground station passengers protesting, November 4th.

Last month, TfL announced that Caledonian Road underground station will be closed for 8 months beginning in January 2016. Thousands of people have already expressed their indignation at this decision which will massively disrupt the 19,000 passenger journeys each day through the station.

The station’s 2 lifts were installed in 1987 and need replacing soon. There are different ways to do this but TfL has chosen an option which is the most convenient for TfL but the most inconvenient for passengers.

TfL has now admitted that it is feasible to replace the lifts one at a time – whilst keeping the station open. Islington Council says this is the option that TfL should now implement.

Please help us to persuade TfL to think again by adding your name to our online petition by clicking here. The petition will be presented to City Hall next week.

Even if you do not regularly use Caledonian Road underground station, it will affect thousands of people who live further south. TfL plans to re-route most of the displaced passengers by bus down to Kings Cross. This will have a huge impact on bus services and congestion further south on Caledonian Road.