Estate vision unveiled for 10-year transformation

Barnsbury plan gets a mixed response from residents

Friday, 17th June — By Anna Lamche

Barnsbury estate Screenshot 2022-06-16 at 11.24.14

950 new homes would be built on the estate if the Newlon scheme gets the go-ahead

A “HUGE” redevelopment that would transform an estate in the heart of the borough has been submitted to the Town Hall’s planning tsars.

Sitting between King’s Cross and the Angel, Barnsbury Estate could be altered beyond recognition under plans recently submitted by Newlon Housing Association to the council.

The estate is divided into “New Barnsbury”, made up of 371 homes built in the post-war period, and “Old Barnsbury”, comprising 275 homes built before the war. Under the plans, New Barnsbury would be entirely demolished and replaced with 950 new homes, while Old Barnsbury would be retrofitted with new insulation, kitchens and bathrooms.

This would take the total number of homes on the estate up from the current total of 646 to 1225. Every social housing tenant in New Barnsbury has been promised a “like-for-like” swap from an old home to a new one on the estate.

In March last year, more than 70 per cent of residents who voted in a ballot said yes to the regeneration scheme, which will be overseen by property developer Mount Anvil.

Developers say the work would be phased over a period of roughly 10 years, with each household decanted into temporary accommodation while their blocks are demolished and rebuilt.

When the Tribune visited the estate this week, residents expressed a range of views on the planning application.

“We need more rooms because of overcrowding,” said Awo of Messiter House. Pauline, of Adrian House, agreed.

“My kids are sleeping in the same room and Islington Council couldn’t give me a new flat,” she said. “I think it’s an excellent proposal.”

However, Pauline expressed concern at the height of some of the proposed buildings. Three blocks overlooking the canal will stand at 11, 12 and 13 storeys under current plans, all of which will break the council’s 30-metre height rule.

“I don’t want a tall building,” she said. “I like not having a lift.”

Hasret, a tenant in Redmond House, said he is in a “sticky situation” because he lives with his parents but needs his own home, which Newlon Housing has said they will be unable to provide.

He has been advised to rent privately, which he can’t afford. “The council needs to start providing housing for young adults,” he said. “If they’re going to rebuild Barnsbury, they need to rehouse all people in need. You can’t just offer people private accommodation.”

Meanwhile, one ground-floor tenant in Kenwrick House, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she could understand why others wanted a new flat, given conditions of “damp and mould” that exist in some of the tower blocks. However, she said she wasn’t prepared for the disruption and was currently looking to move before building begins.

Critics of the application warn the building works will be disruptive and lead to “excessive densification” of the site.

“This is about the same size and density as for the Holloway jail site,” said local architect James Dunnett. He warned that green space on the site would be “more overshadowed” with “more people trying to use it”, leading to “very much less green space per head”.

He said of the plans: “It’s comparable to what is going on all over London. The deal is: hand it all over to a private developer who will rebuild the whole place, double the density, rebuild the affordable stock and pocket the extra.”

He said the building would alter the character of the surrounding area, particularly along the canal towpath, where the tall blocks would overshadow the historic Angel tunnel and “cut off any feeling of connection between the existing estate and the canal”.

This is a worry echoed by the Friends of Regent’s Canal. Caledonian Road would also be transformed, with the new blocks made taller and “moved forward” to touch the pavement line.

“It’s going to make that road a canyon, totally different from what Caledonian Road feels like now,” Mr Dunnett said.

Islington is currently in the grip of a housing crisis, with over 14,000 people waiting for a council home.

However, the council has not yet set a date for the application to be heard by the planning committee. Chair of the planning committee, Martin Klute, said: “There is a distinct possibility some changes will need to be made to the scheme, and those will need to be consulted on again – we might hit a committee date sometime in the autumn.”

A spokesperson for Newlon Housing said: “Newlon has invested and continues to invest millions of pounds on the upkeep and ongoing maintenance of the Barnsbury Estate each year. The design and construction of the New Barnsbury housing means that long-term issues such as damp, mould and thermal inefficiency cannot be solved through ongoing or piecemeal maintenance for individual flats or blocks.

“In order to find the best way to address these issues we consulted extensively with residents on the estate who voted overwhelmingly in favour of transforming the estate in an estate-wide ballot.

“The plans for the estate will deliver high quality, greener, energy efficient homes for our residents, and provide new public parks and enhanced green spaces, as well as additional and improved facilities for the local community.

“We believe that they will significantly enhance the neighbourhood. They will also provide a unique opportunity to resolve issues such as overcrowding for the estate’s residents and bring much needed new affordable housing to borough.

“We have consulted widely with residents, the wider local community and stakeholders ahead of the planning submission. The Friends of the Regent’s Canal were invited to two public consultation sessions.”

  • This article has been updated to reflect that Newlon has proposed to build 950 homes on the New Barnsbury site, rather than 675.


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