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Paul Convery
London
Husband of Balbir; father of two small boys; social and economic researcher; Labour Councillor in Islington (representing Caledonian Ward). Since May 2010, Executive Councillor for planning, regeneration and leisure
Recent Activity
I was shocked by this tragic fatality. TfL has gone extremely slowly on a new scheme for this junction which has now become exceptionally dangerous for pedestrian and cyclists. I strongly support all efforts to get TfL to implement the scheme speedily and will, with our GLA representative, press for action that will prevent further accidents. The entire road system around Kings Cross still bears the legacy of a time when decision-takers saw this dense residential neighbourhood as a high speed drive-through zone. At Islington Council we are determined to remove the gyratories around Kings Cross but TfL's control over most of the roads has proven to be a huge obstacle.
I've spoken to Network Rail about this. Although the station is in Camden the effects are felt only by residents in Islington. So Camden's environmental health people may not be terribly motivated to sort it out. In the meantime, Network Rail have promised to turn down the volume. Please can nearby residents continue to make their own assessments?
This application for an extension of hours until 4am on weekends is quite wrong. The current licensee inherited an already permissive hours regime courtesy of the previous operator. This was opposed by residents at the time but their fears were (slightly) moderated because the previous operator ran a quirky but fairly low key food, drink and entertainment operation. The new proprietor is different. He is already beginning to squeeze the maximium from the existing hours and is causing inconvenience to the locality. Now he wants to stretch this to dawn at weekends. I find it very hard to understand how Rob Hives thinks he can "work with the community and in no way want to upset or cause disturbance". His proposed hours of operation are simply incompatible with doing this.
Oh dear ... have a look at how "Be At One" describe their latest acquisition as "situated right by the bustling station". Well that's a pretty big exaggeration. It's about 400 yards away from the (current) station entrance and even further away from the soon-to-be-opended new KX concourse. Then they describe its "huge windows (and) outside seating". Well the windows are a decent height but they're not "huge". This is (was) a pretty small pub, after all. And the outside seating? I think the license allows about half a dozen chairs although I recall how The Ruby used to lug-out a big leather settee sometimes. So, is a bar already operating at this level of silly hyperbole really going to be that great? We'll see.
Well done KXE, I've just read through the chat and greatly regret missing it. Sadly Thursday 7 to 9 was an exact clash with a formal meeting of the Council's Executive. Sneaky webbing from under the committee table would have been frowned-upon I'm afraid. I've spotted 3 things of great interest here: * Perennial problems that could be fixed by greater scale and extent of youth services in the area * The worsening problems caused by heavy traffic, driver behaviour and the gyratory * Web chat with Cllrs from both sides of the boundary ... an excellent idea. p.s. I had already figured "Purple's" identity, but she's definitely blown cover now.
I've had a few fights with Argent (and Camden planners) over Kings Cross Central and I remain critical of recent variations to their scheme. However, this posting is not helpful. Times have certainly changed and I think that Camden should be pushing Argent not to plough-on with large floorplate HQ-style buildings which is what they offered for the "Sainsbury's site". I think there's still negotation to be had about reshaping other parts of the development site. I am also not impressed by this post saying that "all that S106 cash is going west, literally." That's wrong. The S106 agreement says the benefits are concentrated in neighbourhoods both sides of the Borough boundary - with a reasonably large slice committed to Caledonian Ward.
Quite right, below ground at Kings Cross/St Pancras is quite a labyrinth. But the post from Londonist has a telltale opening phrase "Stumbling drunkenly through King’s Cross recently". Well, when stumbling drunkenly around most transport interchanges, the place is definitely going to be a bit challenging. But let's be fair here. The interchange at KX/St P brings together 3 long distance rail routes, 4 commuter services and 6 underground lines. It's now the largest and busiest transport hub anywhere in London (for which read "anywhere in Europe"). Considering the infrastructure has been built incrementally over the course of 140 years without any kind of rational planning until recently, it's a pretty good result. And when the whole interchange is finished and sits properly in context of the whole Kings Cross Central development, signs to the Regents Canal are going to make quite a lot of sense because the canal will become a very distinctive orientation point. As for the lift diagram, I think it looks pretty intelligible to me. But then I'm not trying to understand it whilst pissed.
The Council's planning enforcement team today served a Temporary Stop Notice on these premises effective today and running for 28 days. This requires them to cease operating between 00.00 (midnight) and 08.00 on any weekday and Saturdays and entirely on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Breach of this notice is an offence which could result in immediate prosecution. Can I urge anyone witnessing the premises open beyond the permitted hours, please make a detailed record and send to me paul.convery@islington.gov.uk because evidence may be needed for prosecution. Additionally, over the holiday period, the Council's noise team have been briefed to make any visits necessary to gather evidence.
I walked past the queue later yesterday afternoon and it had got even worse ... crossing over Midland Road to the British Library. It's a bit strange having a national transport mess right in your neighbourhood. I guess it's the flip side to having a major piece of transport infrastructure located in your neighbourhood.
There is rather more history to this application for a nightclub (not the "Caledonian Banqueting Rooms") and is covered in more detail at http://wp.me/pNrvq-cY Local Councillors are opposing this applciaiton and pressing for immediate enforcement.
I shall miss Gloria. I used to see her almost every day and she would always have something to say or ask about. She had a burning sense about what was right and what wasn’t. And she would know what went on around her like almost no-one else. Sometimes she interpreted events wrongly but often she was absolutely spot-on. I’ve chaired scores of neighbourhood meetings in the last 5 years or so and you could be sure that Gloria would attend almost everything and anything. She could be quite hard work when she got her mind fixed on something. And that something wasn’t always the subject under discussion. But she was a sincere, determined and committed woman with very firmly held opinions.
I got notification today that the developer has submitted yet another appeal against the decision last month to refuse a last ditch attempt to get a valid planning permission. The planning committee's reasons for refusal were really watertight and it would be extraordinary if his appeal were granted. His last appeal against the original demolition order gave hime a tiny window of opportunity to regularise things. The application he eventually submitted was quite ridiculous and I don't believe that a planning inspector will give him any benefit of the doubt. Councillors will make absolutely sure that the Council presents the strongest possible case to the Inspector ... and as Tony Rees suggests, some letters of support for the Council's refusal would be most welcome. I will post the relevant notification letters (which includes a synopsis of the Council reasons) on the Caledonian Councillors website at http://callylabourcouncillors.org.uk/
‘afraid 4 York Way is not being “closed down” as the headline in this story suggests. The Council doesn’t have the power to close them down, just to keep prosecuting (which Islington Council is going to keep on doing until they go out of business). Sadly, the framers of the 1982 Act didn’t quite realise that fining alone may not be enough. As I recall, it was Westminster City Council’s desire to clean-up Soho which led to the sections in the 1982 Act. They went after unlicensed businesses with same gusto that we have now injected into Islington’s regulatory activity.
Here's part of a reply I received from Camden's Drug and Alcohol Team Manager: "The location of the service is in a very busy thoroughfare with constant vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The fact that the service "has many hundreds of homes within a few minutes walking distance" does not mean that those residents will be negatively impacted by the service and there have been no complaints received regarding the operation of the service. We have very strict processes in place to ensure that the operation of such a service will have minimal impact on local communities and the requirement to manage the service and its environs forms part of the contract with the service provider. There are also strong working relationships with other services such as the police, street wardens and the Safer Streets Team to manage the area "You state "If the drug treatment services on offer are ones that successfully help people to quit using heroin, I would be a lot more comfortable" and this is exactly what the treatment service does. It offers a range of treatment options and the ultimate aim is to help people "quit" using heroin. As I am sure every one appreciates this takes time and the journey would include stopping drug related offending as part of the process. "The service at 264 is managed by Crime Reduction Initiatives (CRI) who have an excellent track record of running similar services right across England. Some of the services that will be offered from the site include open access and information, access and referral services, one-to-one support, group work and complementary therapies. You can get more information about CRI from their website www.cri.org.uk CRI also run our Safer Streets Team and so have well established relationships to manage the street populations that require support in Camden."
I should also have added, that this facility is already operating and has done so since February this year. The proposal is to make this temporary arrangement permanent. The service operates alongside some other healthcare delivered from this location - mental health services and a general practitioner type of service for homeless people. Camden says that, before they temporarily located the service at 294 Pentonville, they "involved the community in the development and design of this service through a stakeholder liaison group and resident representatives on the commissioning panel." I have to say that local Councillors have no knowledge about this and no idea who the "stakeholders" or residents they involved were.
I think this is a very risky move on the part of Camden. I wish they had spoken to us before going public. It's exactly why we had begun to talk with Camden about joint decision-taking on community safety, planning and public realm matters in Kings Cross. And, even more recently the two Boroughs have begun to actively explore the proposal to have "shared services" and a joint Chief Executive. So, this isn't a great start. The building at 294 Pentonville Road (next door to the Nat West branch) is not a good location. It's true that interventions such as needle exchanges are best delivered in community-based health facilities and it's also true that some of the heroin-addicted patients may live nearby. But Kings Cross is a location that is recovering from decades of vice-related activity and that recovery is still quite fragile. Putting a needle exchange into our commmunity is a retrogressive step.
This also happened several months ago. After a few days it was sorted and traffic was prevented from using the "cut-through". Some urgent calls have established this is going to be blocked-off by Islington Council - hopefully by Monday morning.
The main rationale for the Camden/Islington initiative is mainly driven by the advantages of shared services and having a joint management team is a necessary first step towards this. But there are also several geographic areas which will benefit from this new relationship between the two Boroughs. These have already featured quite strongly in our discussions at various levels - Kings Cross, Tufnell Park and Archway - because they are shared neighbourhoods which have suffered from being on the margins of both Boroughs and which we are determined should benefit from closer working. We are also talking to Haringey and Hackney about the position of Finsbury Park which suffers similarly. When the full Council met in June this year, we agreed a resolution which commits Islington to agreeing a "common approach to strategic planning and environmental services". The text is below: "MANAGING CHANGE IN THE NEIGHBOURHOODS OF KINGS CROSS "Islington Council recognises that there are residential neighbourhoods around Kings Cross located in Camden and Islington which face common problems and similar opportunities as the area continues to undergo substantial change. After a decade of investment and improvement, new and established communities feel a greater sense of belonging to an area of London which is divided into two separate administrative areas by the Camden/Islington Borough boundary. "We note that joint Borough initiatives such as the Kings Cross Partnership made a marked difference to the area and provided residents and their elected representatives with a vehicle to influence change. The environmental improvements, better policing, installation of CCTV and campaigns to reduce prostitution and drug dealing have contributed to a long term change in the area. However, Kings Cross is still blighted by a harsh environment, particularly the impact of major roads and gyratory systems. Since the end of Kings Cross Partnership the area has begun to suffer from newer threats and problems which need a coordinated two-Borough approach. "We believe that each Council’s powers and influence over regeneration measures, streetscene, traffic management and development control would be better served by closer cross-border cooperation. We are particularly concerned that Kings Cross Central, the largest single development site in Central London, is at considerable risk from the present economic uncertainty and believe that a renewed two-Borough approach is required if Argent Kings Cross is unable to develop their site according to a realistic and acceptable timescale. "We therefore call on Islington Council’s new Labour administration to begin discussions with Camden’s new Labour administration to seek a common approach to strategic planning and environmental services across the area covered by 4 wards (Caledonian and Clerkenwell in Islington and Kings Cross and St Pancras and Somerstown wards in Camden)."
Local Councillors are objecting to this application and we shall vigorously oppose it when it goes to the planning committee. We triggered the enforcement action several months ago ... and that's why the operators have been required to submit this application. It's the first stage of the enforcement process to "test" whether an unpermitted use might be acceptable. However, if the application is refused (and the objection grounds are very strong) then the enforcement people will serve notice to close them down. There's a due process that has to be followed and, frustrating as this is, we just have to follow it.
I have submitted the following objection and will attend the licensing committee to oppose the application: "I wish to register an objection to this address being granted an extended music licence and opening hours serving alcohol until 2am Fridays and Saturdays; to Midnight Tues-Thurs and until 1am on Sundays. I believe the hours sought are excessive and will cause harm to the locality and to neighbouring residents. "Firstly, there is a high risk of crime and disorder. The pub is located on a thoroughfare and I believe the clientele likely to be attracted will not be drawn from the permanent population in the locality. They will have little regard for good order and I fear will be likely to be drunk and behave in a disorderly fashion. I believe that the applicant has a business model which relies on a clientele aged in their early twenties and that initial market testing for this bar has been aimed at the substantial student population concentrated in purpose-built student housing that exists or is currently being constructed on Caledonian Road and Market Road. "Nearing completion is James Leicester Hall, 34 Market Road (which is being expanded from 220 to almost 600 bedrooms). Already built is Piccadilly Court at 457-463 Caledonian Road which has 209 rooms. An Inspector will shortly hear an appeal against the Council’s refusal to grant planning permission for another 360 new student rooms at 465 Caledonian Road. With this current and potential level of student accommodation I believe there is a risk of public nuisance arising from a pub that targets a young student or recently graduated clientele. "Secondly, there is a risk of public nuisance. These premises are located opposite the Caledonian Estate which is a dense housing estate of predominantly social rented tenure. A very high proportion of homes on the estate are families with young children and these residents are certain to experience noise and disturbance from people departing the pub and – most particularly – from people standing outside on the street to smoke. The applicant says that “doors and windows will be kept closed at times of entertainment” but there is no assurance given that, for example, air conditioning or sound proof ventilation has been installed that would obviate the temptation (or even the necessity) to open windows during warm weather. "Finally, I am very concerned that the applicant is not fit to manage a licensed premise. The limited company which has made this application does not substantively exist or have a trading record. I am told that a Companies House search reveals that the sole Director of the company has listed his occupation as "student". I believe the Council should have serious doubts as to the credibility, capacity and competence of the applicant to run a pub licensed for alcohol and music. "This is underlined by the applicant’s alarming naiveté in misunderstanding the difference between the Metropolitan Police and the British Transport Police. The applicant asserts that there is a police station “situated 20 metres across the road”. This is a misleading statement. The BTP has a divisional facility and prisoner holding centre in the near vicinity. This is quite different to there being a Metropolitan Police operational police station. The BTP do not ordinarily deploy officers to deal with anti-social behaviour or public order problems related to licensed premises no matter how closely located one of their facilities is to a place where officers might be required.
I agree. I have not seen any evaluation to show if the magazine gets read or if any of its editorial matters a jot to anyone. It's a dreary faux-happy bit of local authority boosterism and it looks like it. I doubt whether anyone takes its "news" at all seriously. Even worse, I doubt if anyone diligently scours the statutory notices pages which account for the "advertising income" claimed by the Council. Personally I put the damn thing straight into the cecycle bin. And I'm one of the weird people who really ought to be reading it.
I thought I should add that the license application will be heard tomorrow Tuesday 8th June at 4pm at the Town Hall. I do not yet know what is the status of the parallel planning application for change of use. Both permissions are required before the business should start trading. I am fairly relaxed about the activity proposed. The business when it was "rehearsed" at Xmas last seemed to go down quite well. I am not aware of any difficulties with the (then) opening hours. However, I am acutely conscious that the hours of opening now sought are quite late. There is residential accomodation directly above the premises and I think that neighbour amenity should be a prime concern in any decision to grant either a license or to permit a change of planning use and the operational hours sought.
There was an awful lot of stuffed shirts present (sorry if that's an old fashioned phrase). And an awful lot of photographers. Amazingly the Mayor of London did not gatecrash the gig. So for a little light relief, when no-one was looking, Assembly Member Jenette Arnold and I pretended to cut the commemorative cake. That's what the 3rd picture shows. Thanks to Sophie for snapping it. Sadly no-one get to nobble the Secretary of State and suggest Network Rail builds the community a bridge. Earlier that morning, Stephan Schulte had correctly mentioned that a pretty substantial pedestrian bridge has already been built across the tracks ... but that's just for construction workers. He's right I got the "tour" a few weeks ago and walked over that bridge. It's pretty sturdy. So, how about just moving it about 60 metres north?
Caledonian and Barnsbury Councillors have strongly supported this dispersal zone. There is an emerging gang problem around Edwards Square which has to be sorted very quickly. There's more at: http://wp.me/pNrvq-ay To reassure Dan Stone, the terms of the order say that a curfew power (9pm-6am) can be imposed on under-16s who are not under supervision of an adult. Full text of the order is attached to the posting at http://wp.me/pNrvq-ay
Yes it is true. The opening is at about 10.30am. I have (possibly) got an invitation. I am going to try and get in and grab the Sec of State to discuss bridge.
Toggle Commented May 20, 2010 on Is this right? at Kings Cross Local Environment