I watched the repeat of Location, Location’s best & worst places to live, knowing already that they’d ranked Islington as 7th worst out of all 434 local authorities in the UK.
The rankings are based on statistics for crime, education, environment, ‘lifestyle, health and employment, in that order. Islington scores low because of poverty, crime and lack of greenspace.
We’re not alone in having high levels of crime or deprivation, although since the programme came out, the official crime stats for Islington have fallen. So that bodes well for next year’s ranking.
Greenspace is more of a challenge.
London has 30% greenspace more than any other equivalent size city in the world – largely thanks to the Royal Parks in central London, plus spaces like Hampstead Heath and Epping Forest owned by the City of London. But central, densely-populated, Islington has always been short on large parks – despite having over 120 small ones.
Increasing our open space in the face of unmeetable demand for housing is not going to be easy.
Policy-makers encourage building on ‘brownfield’ sites, but when these are next to greenspace – like the park depot sites alongside Barnard Park and Rosemary Gardens, or the old car park at Winton School – it’s not always popular.
Meanwhile real greenspace on housing estates is not designated as parkland, so does not count for Phil & Kirsty’s stats – and isn’t protected in planning law either. But at least the Council is trying.
New or extended parks have been created out of development sites, including Graham Street park due to be extended at City Road Basin and new public greenspace at Packington Square.
Of course statistics alone don’t tell us anything about the spirit of the place. And statistical averages don’t mean a lot. My cat and I have an average of 3 legs each. So what? Nothing will convince me that Islington is a less desirable place to live than Knowsley.
And this set of stats give no points for Islington’s plus points – what about our architecture, excellent transport links, diverse community reflected in all the different places to eat & drink, the independent shops, the theatres, and the community spirit.
People voting on the Channel 4 website rate Islington 4 out of 5. That’s more like it.
Meanwhile, the typical top ten entries are plush Surrey districts with good education and low crime – safe but dull.
Kirsty obviously likes Islington, despite bemoaning our lack of shoe shops! In the programme she appears in Muriel Street while talking about Mansfield and Newham; and discusses Nottingham round the corner next to Grimaldi Park off Pentonville Road.
The programme is focused around house prices, showing what £200k, the average national house price, would get you in Islington. Not a lot.
If dissing our reputation on prime time TV makes Islington’s overheated house prices dip a bit, then maybe Phil and Kirsty will have done us all a favour after all.