On Friday May 1st Alderman Luder sent to all members of the Court of Common Council an email to justify work continuing on COLPAI during lockdown. ColPai. A brief reply to Common Councillors Pearson and Harrower
It’s disappointing that the resumption of work continues to be justified by the need for the social housing or the delay to opening the school.
This disregards the needs of the existing social housing tenants who, confined to their homes during lockdown, live within 6m of the COLPAI site’s continuous noise in flats that had not been maintained by the Corporation for years and still have their original single glazed windows.
Or that the COLPAI school children will have to stay in another temporary (already financed) location for up to a term longer because the Corporation opened a school before it had even submitted a planning application.
Quite rightly parents have a choice and in choosing COLPAI they chose a school that was not built but with a promise that it would be completed by September this year, a promise that has already been broken.
This was my reply:
Subject: A brief reply to Alderman Luder 8.57pm Friday 1st May
Dear Alderman Luder,
I addressed your justification for work continuing on COLPAI during lockdown in my blog CITY CORPORATION FAILS TO SHOW LEADERSHIP IN THIS TIME OF CRISIS This is what I wrote:
"No-one opposes the provision of more social housing or another primary school. They will be built. All that is required is a delay of a few weeks in a three year project. Not delaying will harm the welfare of the City’s social housing tenants, who comprise half the population of Golden Lane estate, and a number of primary school children, who are at home on the estate during the lockdown.”
Putting that statement into the context of the figures you quote:-
Why is providing 33 social housing units to people on the City’s waiting list a few weeks sooner in the first quarter of 2022 than if work were suspended during lockdown more important than protecting the welfare of scores of the City’s existing residents, including many social housing tenants?
Those people on the waiting list cannot move into currently vacant properties, because the Corporation is not letting them during lockdown, as its staff are working from home.
Why is the school moving to its permanent site by a certain date more important than protecting school children who live within sight and sound of the construction work from having their lives blighted during lockdown? Some of these children are already pupils in COLPAI.
The cost of the upgrade of the school to a temporary location for a further year is already accounted for.
If the school does not open on its permanent site in January 2021 as currently scheduled, that will be due more to the Corporation’s historical poor planning and management of this project than a suspension of work during lockdown.
I suggest that those who think the Corporation is right to allow construction on the COLPAI site to continue during lockdown should:
- read the comments made by a couple of residents at the foot of the blog CITY CORPORATION CONTINUES TO FAIL RESIDENTS and
- answer the questions raised in the blogs, including why the Corporation is clinging to government guidance during this crisis instead of showing moral leadership, especially on one of its own developments for the benefit of its own residents.
bcc: All members
Common Councilman Cripplegate Ward
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Thank you Sue,
I live on the ground floor of Hatfield House within 12 metres of the site. I am trying to work at home as we are having to isolate as my youngest son is being treated for cancer. Our living room, where I have to work because of the size of the other rooms, faces south and gets hot as soon as the sun shines. Luckily we have the big, vertically sliding window that give lots of ventilation. Unluckily we can't open it due to the intolerable noise from the site and the dust and petrol fumes that it generates.
I have written to the COLPAI Team several times and never received a proper reply. I know that they read my emails because they cut and pasted some of the questions that I asked into a flyer sent to residents. What they didn't do was properly give answers, giving what I can only describe as political double speak.
We have heard of the plight of the children who will be denied their new school building for a couple more weeks. Perhaps the City should have thought before opening a new school without a building to go into. They should also tell us why these children are more important than children living next to the site on the Golden Lane estate.
We have also been told, perhaps conveniently after construction started, that Islington Council got its figures wrong and a new primary school locally is not needed. I think that we need to know how long the City new about this and if they knew of it before the school opened why was there a rush to enrol children before the new building was constructed as local children could presumably be accommodated in existing schools.
Sue has worked tirelessly to support the residents and families on Golden Lane during this odd and difficult time. She has listened to residents and made time for the people who are isolated in their homes. No-one could doubt Sue’s commitment to the people who live here including the families who send their children to the new primary school. There is no question that Sue wants to disrupt the building programme for the school and the social housing - that is not the case. Unfortunately this is a very difficult time for many households on the Golden Lane Estate who live in small flats with limited outside space. Families , couples and single people are coping with many, many issues to do with health, income and general well-being. For the people who are unable to leave home the noise from the COLPAI site has been a form of mental torture. In normal times residents can find respite but at present they have no choice but to endure the loud noise and banging. Sue has spoken up for the residents and has been unfairly criticised and accused of hampering the City’s social housing programme. All that Sue has asked for is some consideration of residents’ health and well-being during this crisis. I fully support Sue’s efforts as an elected representative to improve our current living conditions. I agree with Mark Bostock that this is a moral issue which could so easily have been resolved with strong leadership and courage.
The City had an opportunity of showing real moral leadership by delaying the COLPAI construction work during this difficult period of lockdown. It has failed to do so. It is clear that families confined to their flats with their children and some parents having to work from home with all this noisy daily work so close to their properties is intolerable and is affecting their wellbeing. Susan Pearson is the only elected Cripplegate Ward Member resident in Golden Lane Estate and I fully support her advocacy in seeking the cessation of work during this lockdown period. My disappointment is the City has not responded more responsibly in dealing with this important resident matter.
I wonder where Alderman Luder is living during lockdown? Not, I suspect, within 6m of a building site that continues to work noisily for upwards of 8 hours a day. Perhaps he would like to swap with me (if that was allowed) to experience first hand the stress of living with such noise and disruption when we are confined to our flats for 23 hours a day. Some are enduring this while attempting to home-work or home-educate or, like me, self-isolating. No one could have anticipated the effect the pandemic would have on daily life and a short delay to COLPAI is a small price to pay compared to the sacrifices others are making. It’s no surprise that the City of London puts its business interests above the health and well-being of its residents - it has had plenty of other opportunities to increase its housing stock without relying on COLPAI - but it is surprising that Alderman Luder does when, on his City of London web page, he declares his second main interest as health. Not that of GLE residents, apparently.
I strongly support Sue Pearson’s position. A small delay in the work on COLPAI is justified in view of the enormous disruption its continuation causes residents during lockdown, as well as the potential health implications. City of London Common Councilmen, such as Sue Pearson and myself, clearly stated at the time that the construction timetable was unrealistic. Delays are deeply unfortunate, but at this difficult moment people must be put above construction. If the City of London, and many of the critics of Sue Pearson, were serious about their concern for social housing, they would inquire as to why a block of housing for key workers on the other side of Golden Lane (Bernard Morgan House) was bulldozed to be replaced by luxury flats. They would also do well to campaign for social housing to become a top priority for the City of London, which it is not and has not been for a long time. Patience, and flexibility for the short time that lockdown remains, is essential at this moment.
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