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Enforcement action underway against multiple bedsits and over-crammed flats on Caledonian Road

June 21, 2012

The Prince pub at 342 Caledonian Road is run by lifelong Cally resident Eileen Christie but Mr Panayi owns the building and there’s a problem with bedsit residents and noise

“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 Tarmon.

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

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Diana Shelley permalink
    June 21, 2012 3:30 pm

    It was truly shocking to see the property shown on the programme last night. Transient or not, no one should live in those conditions, over-crowded and below ground without light or ventilation, and I hope enforcement is speedy and effective.

  2. JAN permalink
    June 23, 2012 12:03 pm

    Still having nightmares about the people living in the basement flats.There didn’t appear to be any ventilation or additional fire exits. I hate to imagine what would happen if a fire broke out.The arrogance of the man!

  3. Diana permalink
    June 23, 2012 10:25 pm

    Its strange how when most people want to build an extension or do alterations Islington Council take months to make a decision. What if we ALL did as Mr Panayi – what sort of country would this be. The ultra vires ( build now and ask later) form of planning control is becoming more and more common in this country. It shows a total lack of political will on the part of Islington Council planning department that this arrogant man can just flaunt the laws that most of us have to abide by. He was also letting completely illegal flats with no windows or ventilation – this is just taking us back to the 1960’s . Shame on you Islington Council and Im sure MR Panayi is not the only one doing this.

  4. James McDonald permalink
    June 24, 2012 5:10 pm

    It’s extraordinary that Panayi can get away with this. What exactly is Islington Coucnil going to do about this? It says that “that planning enforcement and environmental health action is underway” but can you announce exactly what is going on?

  5. local resident permalink
    June 25, 2012 5:54 pm

    The focus seems to be on planning issues, but what about other legal requirements such as Energy Performance Certificates and, more importantly Gas Safety which I think Trading Standards and the Health & Safety Executive are responsible for.

    • Paul Brown permalink
      June 27, 2012 2:26 pm

      The Council seems determined to evict these people whose only wish is to live in London instead of back where they come from in the middle of nowhere. The burning question is, if the Council manages to evict them, are they going to rehouse them? The answer to this is probably not, they just want to impose a lifestyle on them. I was forced into exile from London to the West Country for 2 years 10 months. I would have accepted any offer of accommodation back in London, including a hostel place or even a garden shed, but no accommodation was offered. What right does the Council have to tell these people how they must live?

      • July 4, 2012 11:12 am

        The Council is not intending to evict anyone. We are just aiming to get Mr Panayi to rent out properties that comply with planing, environmental health and housing rules. We are not imposing on anyone’s “lifestyle” choices. Nor are we exercising a “right”. Instead we are meeting a legal duty to ensure that housing in our Borough provides safe, sanitary, decent living conditions. The history of the last 100 years has seen a fierce struggle by ordinary people against ruthless landlords … and local authorities have been the main tool for progress in that struggle.

      • Diana permalink
        July 4, 2012 7:52 pm

        Paul. This is not council housing its privately rented and the council can close it down if it does not meet the regulations. The council is under no obligation to rehouse them but I do not think the tenants really care – they just want cheap accommodation whilst visiting London and Mr Panayi knows they wont complain. But the council does have a legal obligation to make sure the housing complies with all regulations and Mr Panayis interpretation of the regulations are at the least very Turkish. But lets just wait and see what they do as these things take time.

      • July 4, 2012 10:46 pm

        I’m afraid that may be a simplistic view, Diana. Whilst some of the tenants do leave as soon as the six months are up (mostly due to the appalling conditions), some of us have been on the Cally for years, we care a lot about living here, and we put up with our flats having leaky roofs, unsafe fire exits and with lack of maintenance so that we can live in this area.
        Once you have been in the same rented accommodation for several years it does become your home and the prospect that this may be taken away is unsettling to say the least. This is not stopping us from wanting to speak out now that the wind is in our sail, and help the Council bring as many of the properties to regulation, without excessive disruption for those who want to carry on living around here.

      • Diana permalink
        July 5, 2012 1:11 am

        Yes hopefully this has highlighted the situation – I am sure this is a view held by many and I suppose the payoff is they may raise the rent if they improve so good luck to you on this

  6. June 29, 2012 4:56 pm

    I agree with the fellow local resident, the issue is not just the shocking disregard for planning regulations – which Mr Panayi claims he’s complied in the past four years – but also with health and safety standards, which I suspect are not being complied either…

    As a fellow tenant I have started email and twitter accounts: and @callycows (inspired by the posters than appeared on Caledonian Road this morning). If you’re interested in getting together as current tenants and entering a conversation with the council on what could be done about this — or whichever other way forward may be more appropriate — do get in touch. Judging by the documentary, there must be hundreds of us!

  7. Sue permalink
    June 29, 2012 11:44 pm

    The troglodite dwellings under the pavement must surely fail to meet fire regulations let alone the regulations on light and ventilation. Unless the Council is seen to take severe enforcement action quickly, other landlords will now jump on this horrible bandwagon. Surely something can be done speedily? There is nothing “likeable” about a rogue landlord who boasts that he can beat the system while raking in huge profits from substandard, unsafe accommodation. Please act swiftly Islington Council and ensure that enforcement action is well publicised.

    • Diana permalink
      June 30, 2012 4:54 pm

      Im surprised that Islington Council planning department are not clever enough to watch their backs because when an incident does occur, and it inevitably will, its all out there now and they will have no one to blame except themselves. The only way this man can be getting away with this is if **** ***** ***** ***** [the final words of this comment have been blanked-out because they may be libelous. Sorry we are not normally censorious but we do need to exercise caution]


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