We’ve been saddled with a project in the park that’s just limping along
06 December, 2019
Mike Power, vice-chairman of the Clocktower Residents’ Group, in Caledonian Park
• JUST three months after the reopening last June of the Cally Clocktower and its new café and heritage centre at a cost of £2.5million, the café closed due to “staff shortages”.
In addition the clock tower is open just one day a week, while the heritage centre has been understaffed and underused from the outset.
The project seems, therefore, to be becoming the “white elephant” of the local community’s fears.
The café’s problems were not just staff shortages but lack of custom. Its sales were unlikely to have covered the cost of the one staff member involved.
The café, which closed in October after just three months, is due to be relaunched in the new year. Good luck with that!
The café is on the wrong (north) side of the park to attract sufficient customers, and this was pointed out by our local community endlessly before it was built.
Had it been built on the Market Road side it could have attracted many passers-by between two bus stops, those heading for the tube, and from the tennis and gym centre, as well as from the football pitches.
During the whole period of the council’s so-called consultation with the locals, we never saw a business plan for the project.
And we were fobbed off with misleading and inaccurate excuses for ignoring our plea not to build just 15 metres from our homes.
Islington Council predicted that annual running costs for the project would be some £90,000 and that this amount would be offset by income from the café, private hiring and sales of merchandise.
Additional income will now more likely be replaced by additional costs the way things are going.
With great fanfare the council told us that on the completion of the project that the use of Caledonian Park would increase, but that didn’t happen.
They also suggested that anti-social behaviour would be contained, for example, stating that: “Islington Council operates a zero tolerance policy to graffiti and has a rapid-response team removing graffiti around the borough”.
It’s only a small point, but at the time of writing there has been graffiti on the clock tower for the past 10 days.
This is not said to attack our hard-working council staff, of whom more and more is expected following government financial cuts, but to reveal how cavalier have been our MP Emily Thornberry, our councillors Paul Smith, Rakhia Ishmail and Diarmaid Ward, and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
All of these ignored and brushed aside local opinion and pushed ahead with a clearly flawed project.
This situation arises from Islington being a “one-party state”, in which Labour won 47 out of 48 seats in May last year with only 60 per cent of the vote.
As a result there is totally inadequate oversight and control when decisions like this one can be bulldozed through committees.
So, after more than two years of disruption during the building work in Caledonian Park, we are saddled with a project that is just limping along.
Local people are still hoping that some good will come of it all. If not our worst fears that it will become a “white elephant” will be realised.
Clock View Crescent, N7