Springtime for Packington

The spring air is chilly and May day may seem an age away, but it’s just six weeks to the London elections.

Thanks to the efforts of my Liberal Democrat council colleagues, virtually every estate now has entrance security, meaning deliveries have to be done in the early morning “tradesman’s” slot. Even though the post now often arrives mid-afternoon ... So my morning routine now includes an hour or so of trotting round with leaflets before work. Who needs the gym?

Yesterday I went along the canal, sharing the towpath with cyclists and joggers on their way to work, passing sleepy ducks who seemed untroubled by this very civilised rush hour.It’s fascinating to see familiar buildings from the other side; like the NarrowBoat pub, small and quaint at street level, which shows its elegant glass walls over the canal.

Alongside the towpath are the hoardings surrounding the Packington Square estate. Packington used the same panel-built design as used for Ronan Point. Ronan Point famously collapsed after a gas explosion. Under Labour, Islington Council failed to make the necessary checks that the buildings met modern standards: they don’t. The Liberal Democrat council made the estate safe by taking out all the gas appliancies. And now the estate is finally being pulled down and rebuilt.

The residents have chosen a traditional street pattern; ironic, as that’s what the planners swept away when the estate was first built. It marks the high tide of post-war estates in Islington; after Packington, residents and councillors revolted and refused to demolish any more streets.

Beyond the hoarding, the first blocks have already come down, with one lone lift tower opposite Cluse Court still standing. Packington has been crying out for action for years. Neighbours on my estate were rehoused from Packington twenty years ago when their homes became uninhabitable. The original estate layout with quarter mile corridors in the sky was a hotspot for crime; so the estate security here was particularly welcome, but it cuts the estate up into fortresses where each staircase and landing is bisected by fences; one former resident calls it Colditz.

The optimistic illustrations of the new housing association estate are a total contrast: they show sunlit streets, with happy residents and even Eames-style chairs on the balconies. But it’s not too sanitised; on one of the drawings, an enterprising campaigner has stuck a Stop the War sticker so it appears like a banner over the balcony.

Radical Islington lives!

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