St Peter's Bi-Election. August 2011


The Friends of Regent's Canal have shown a particular interest in this bi-election, because the St Peter's ward includes the Islington Tunnel, the controversial Danbury Street ramp, the public spaces alongside the City Road Basin, the controversial building at Harris Wharf that obstructs part of the lock, and it is a focal point for many other canal-related issues. It is also an area that attracts conflicts between walkers and cyclists.

Letter from Ian Shacklock


We can expect some interesting discussions as political candidates line up to explain what they can do for St Peterís ward. Next monthís by-election will be unique because this ward is unique. It encloses Islingtonís longest stretch of the Regentís Canal and one of its largest open spaces (City Road Basin) so it is a magnet for visitors. Its two boat clubs serve underprivileged youngsters.

Sadly, this ward also attracts regular and blatant anti-social behaviour in the form of commuter cyclists who exceed 5mph on crowded towpaths. To date, no serious injuries have been reported, but near-misses occur on a daily basis and numerous walkers avoid the towpath altogether.

These unrelaxed commuters represent only a small minority of the cycling community Ė and most of them live outside Islington Ė yet they bring the whole concept of cycling into disrepute.

The successful political candidate will hear stories about this from a wide range of constituents so it is important that he or she has an action plan for confronting this problem and is able to work closely with British Waterways, police and other parties.

Some people might find this an uninteresting by-election, by assuming that the results will have a negligible impact on the balance of power in Islington or that the choice of candidate is relevant to only one-sixteenth of the borough. However, this ward is a major focal point because thousands will descend on this area in September for the Angel Canal Festival and thousands more will continue to visit the area to enjoy its open spaces.

Their future ability to do this will depend on councillorsí determination to challenge controversial planning applications that threaten the Regentís Canal's navigability, to unlock any physical barriers that turn public rights-of-way into seemingly private dead-ends and to help walkers reclaim their share of the towpath.

I look forward to hearing the candidatesí approaches to these issues.

Ian Shacklock
Chair, Friends of Regentís Canal

This was published in the Islington Tribune on 15th July, 2011
http://www.islingtontribune.com/letters/2011/jul/menace-regents-canal-towpaths

Response from Green Party Candidate


As a regular user of the Regents Canal as it passes through Islington I am well aware of problems over how this resource is shared between the different users; as well as threats to the canal from new developments. These are issues that London Assembly member and Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones commented on during her recent visit to the Regent's Canal in Islington. "The towpaths are a wonderful recreational asset, but everyone has a right to use them".

I believe that there are no easy solutions to sharing a narrow towpath that is a pleasant escape from traffic filled streets, but it is clearly unconconstructive to pit cyclists against pedestrians when the real issue is courteous versus discourteous behaviour, something that surely filters down from our roads.

If elected as a councillor, I would ensure that any planning application must guarantee full and free access to the canal for walkers, cyclists and traditional transport uses. The canal network is currently underused as a transport resource in London and it would be wrong for canalside development to impede this important aspect of the canal's role in our city. In addition such planning applications should recognise the urgent housing needs of the borough rather than solely the commercial interests of property developers.

Caroline Allen
Green Party by-election candidate for St Peter's

An abbreviated version of this letter was published in the Islington Tribune on 15th July, 2011
http://www.islingtontribune.com/letters/2011/jul/courtesy-towpath

Response from LibDem Party Candidate

LibDem

An abbreviated version of this letter was published in the Islington Tribune on 6th August, 2011
http://www.islingtontribune.com/letters/2011/aug/curb-towpath-terrors

Response from Labour Party Candidate

The Labour Party candidate has not responded yet, but we can probably assume that she would build on the work started by Martin Klute. Here is a recent letter of Martin's that was published in the Islington Gazette.
Klute letter