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Barnsbury garages-to-flats plans ‘a return to East End slums’

Tenants fear homes will lack privacy but housing bosses defend conversions on ‘lovely estate’

29 June, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Residents Ronald Lord, William O’Dowd, Joe Spikesley, Michaela Wadsworth, Robin Don and Susie Paddock

RESIDENTS have acc­used their landlord of trying to turn their award-winning estate into a “slum” by converting multiple garages into new flats.

Barnsbury Housing Ass­ociation has set out a plan to convert around 30 garages in Morland Mews into seven new flats.

The tenants’ association on the Barnsbury estate is resisting the plans, which they say will see their community hall moved to a former garage while the new flats may not get much natural light or privacy.

The estate is separate from the Barnsbury Estate which is run by Newlon Housing Trust.

A resident said: “If they add more houses here it’s going to be awful. I grew up in an East End slum in the 1930s and it’s going to become that. I already overlook five bedrooms and six bathrooms and toilets. I accept it and I am very fortunate but the new homes are going to be too much here.”

Another resident, Joe Spikesley, added: “The garages will not make decent flats, that’s our biggest argument.”

Susie Paddock, who has lived on the estate for around 40 years, fears anti-social behaviour will increase if more homes are added to the existing 155 flats on the estate.

She said: “This kind of plan wouldn’t be permissible in a richer, private estate. It wouldn’t be considered. It’s because we’re social housing.”

Michaela Wadsworth, who was “born and bred” on the estate, added: “We need the garages to park our cars and for storage. The council might not give us parking permits.”

The football pitch near Morland Mews

Residents say they are not against new homes on their estate, designed by award-winning architect Kenneth Pring and built in the 1970s.

Association chairman William O’Dowd said flats could be sited on half the football pitch.

“But when we went to the planning department at the council they said they couldn’t allow that because it was against their policy of developing a public space,” he added.

The association has applied for the estate to be listed by heritage group the Twentieth Century Society.

Barnsbury Housing Association, with headquarters in Cloudesley Street, has defended the plans, saying it has already cut the number of proposed new flats by half after listening to residents.

Chief executive Susan French said: “Morland Mews is a lovely estate. Our plan would add just seven homes to 155 by converting more garages, as we have done here before. Most of these gar­ages are being used as storage or workshops by ourselves or our contractors.

“Some others are rented for storage by tenants who have two or who don’t live on the estate. Our architects have designed window openings to make the most of natural light. A specialist consultant has put all planned habitable rooms through rigorous daylight and sunlight assessments.”

She added: “The new bespoke community room will be better laid out, with a glazed front and none of the pillars of the old one. Residents will decide what internal features and layout they want.

“We’ve also responded to residents’ concerns by, for example, adding more storage for bikes and mobility scooters, with charging points, and have tweaked layouts to enhance all tenants’ privacy.”
Plans will be submitted to the Town Hall in the next few days.

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