Friends of Regent’s Canal - Minutes of Meeting

Date and Time:
Wednesday 7th November 2012, 7pm to 9pm
London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RT

Ian Shacklock

1. Present

Gordon Meen Resident, Reachview
Nic Shore Volunteer, Thames 21. Local Resident
Fiona Maclean London Narrow Boat Association
Mike Crilly Resident.
James Tregaskis Resident
Ian Heptonstall Resident.
Bernard James Laburnum Boat Club
John Checkley Angel Community Canal Boat Trust.Angel Canal Festival.
Bhupesh Thapa Islington Council - Greenspace
Andrew Boxer Resident
Kevin Payne Mount Anvil
Keith Ward Mount Anvil
George Arnett Student Journalist
Jo Gibbons J&L Gibbons
Beryl Windsor Angel Canal Festival, St Pancras Cruising Club
Lee Wilshire Urban Research Projects
Juliet Heap Juliet Heap Ltd
David Christie Friend of Arlington Association
Martin Reading Arlington Association
Gordon McArthur Arlington Association
Dohne Arnold Resident
Rob Inglis Musical Flying Squad
Jason Lord Resident, Islington
Nicola Bartlett Student Journalist
Sylvia Aylward Boater
Tony Islander London Canals Project
Gillian Comins Angel Association; Living Streets
Ruth Aplin Resident
Roger Squires St Pancras Cruising Club; Inland Waterways Association
Richard Elkan
Sandra Green HNBC. Ice Wharf Resident.
Ali Rawlings London Boaters Group.
Caroline Neller London Boaters Group.
Robert Philpotts Author, When London Became an Island.
Melanie Aust Islington Boat Club
Leo Chapman Regents Network.
David Fathers Author, The Regent's Canal
Rececca Young Met Police - Marine Policing Unit
Andy Hudson Met Police - Marine Policing Unit
S. Thomas Wilts Wildlife
Ian Shacklock Friends of Regent's Canal
Del Brenner Regents Network; London Waterways Commission;
Regents Canal Conservation Area Advisory Committee
Ben Myring Canal User
Eric Sorensen Angel Association
Naomi Newstead Conservative Candidate, NE London Assembly
Martin Hughes Director, Polity Communications Ltd
Beverley Tourle Planning Consultant

2. Apologies

Elizabeth Virgo
Christian Wolmar
Councillor Alice Perry
Councillor Martin Klute
Councillor Catherine West
Tom Whitemore
Garrie Naden
Beverley Dean
Lester May
John Bryant
Martin Thompson
David Hilling
Mark Walton
Laura Harford

3. Introductions

3.1 At the start of the meeting, all the attendees introduced themselves.

4. Redevelopment of Holborn Studios.

4.1 Martin Hughes and Beverley Tourle gave a presentation on their proposals for making greater use of the land space at Holborn Studios. This would involve demolition of all the existing buildings, including a landmark chimney.

4.2 The plans were still at conceptual stage, and no formal application had been submitted to Hackney Council. So the purpose of the presentation was to explain the reasoning behind the design and to find out how the public might react to it. Several members of the audience had serious concerns about the design and provided enough feedback to allow Martin and Beverley to manage their client's expectations about what would be acceptable to the community and the authorities. (Their client is Gold Property Developments Ltd, a private company that owns the land used by Holborn Studios).

4.3 Beverley gave a computer-assisted tour of the proposed development and illustrated the efforts made to integrate the new buildings with its contemporary surroundings, to reflect some of historic features in a modern setting and to provide better permeability.

4.4 However, there were several complaints about the surrounding buildings - most of which are less than ten years old - due to their size, shape, and lack of character. So the idea of another "cut and paste" job was not attractive to many of the residents and canal visitors.

4.5 There was strong support for keeping the facade of the existing buildings (or at least parts of them) because these buildings are a popular asset on the canal. It was commented that a lot of creative workers are more productive in settings like Holborn Studios (and the recently demolished Rosemary Works) so none of the existing buildings could be described as redundant or unfit for purpose.

4.6 It was quite clear from the quality of the presentation that a lot of thought had been put into the design, but the general feeling was that the frontage was inappropriate for a 200-year old canal.

4.7 The discussion lasted for well over 30 minutes and it was noted that there would be further opportunities to exchange comments via e-mail and via the Friends website.

4.8 Further information is available via the following link.

5. City Road Basin and Plaza.

5.1 Kevin Payne and Keith Ward (from the Mount Anvil project team) gave an update on the situation around the Plaza.

5.2 Construction work has now started on the site between the Plaza and Graham Street, and it had an immediate impact on permeabilty around the basin after the hoardings were relocated. This had occurred shortly after the Angel Canal Festival and it came at a time when the Friends were mounting a campaign to promote the walkways around the basin. This took councillors and canal users by surprise and it exposed a serious gap in communications between the council, the basin users and various other parties.

5.3 The Mount Anvil team have rectified the gap in communications and have agreed to include the Friends of Regent's Canal in future correspondence. They have no plans to relocate the hoardings, which will remain on their legal boundary until early 2014, and which have bisected one of the walkways, but they are supportive of our desire to increase footfall around the basin. Mount Anvil have already engaged the Islington Boat Club and the artists at All Change, to design artwork for the hoardings; and they have also allowed space on the hoardings for the Friends to put directional signage to promote the walkways.

5.4 The hoardings have reduced the width of the walkway by 50 percent and they restrict the lines of sight. That is why it is so important to provide signage, to remind the public that the right of way still exists.

5.5 Cycling is impractical due to the reduced width and the rutted surface, but this is a minor problem because two-way cycling is still possible along Graham Street. Nobody has commented yet on whether the walkway surface is suitable for wheelchair users.

5.6 There are also concerns that there is an increased risk of pedestrians falling down the steps, unless barriers are fitted along the edge of the walkway.

5.7 The Mount Anvil team are keen to facilitate greater usage of the Plaza and will be reaching out to nearby community groups. There was concern about the recent use of the Plaza for parking construction vehicles. Kevin Payne stated that these were not the responsibility of Mount Anvil but agreed to talk to the relevant contractor.

6. Bi-Centenary Celebrations.

6.1 Rob Inglis reported on the success of the "The Regent's Canal" - a Folk Opera. Throughout September there had been a comprehensive schedule of performances at various sites along the canal. Rob drew particular attention to the acoustics inside the Interchange Building in Camden Town. It is hoped that there will be further performances next year.

6.2 Rob also spoke about plans to install commemorative plaques along the canal, to mark key events during the canal construction period that started 200 years ago.

7. Olympic Park.

7.1 Jo Gibbons provided an update on what is being planned in the canalside spaces at the Olympic Park. This work is being funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation.

7.2 This project is being extended until January 2013, so there is still time to provide comments.

7.3 Further information is available via the following link.

8. Security.

8.1 Safety and security have become major issues along the canal, and on one occasion about 17 boats were broken into at Victoria Park. This resulted in a sudden exodus of boats from that area and this has caused mooring congestion elsewhere. Safety issues have resulted in a revival of the gate locking schedule at the Islington Visitor Moorings, where it is very dark and secluded at night.

8.2 Two marine police officers attended the meeting, to learn about the Friends of Regent's Canal, and they have offered to give a talk about canal security at our next meeting.

8.3 In recent years, security has not been given the attention it deserves, despite the fact that most of the affected boats are people's homes rather than parked vehicles.

8.4 There is also an anomaly with insurance statistics, in that crime events are mapped to the nearest street property, because the towpath does not have its own postcode. (Tony Islander has been bringing this to people's attention for over two years). This seems grossly unfair on the house dwellers because it means that their insurance premiums are being derived from events that are unrelated to their street.

9. Café Proposals at City Road Lock.

9.1 The consultation period has ended for the revised planning application. Most of the Friends have expressed support for the idea of an independent café with gallery and community space, but it was noted that this support was based on the assumption that the building would be occupied throughout the winter months. (One of the selling points was that it would provide natural surveillance).

9.2 It was noted that there is an ongoing issue regarding the boundary with the neighbouring hut, which needs to be maintained by the Angel Canal Festival. There are some sleepers installed by the tenants of the proposed café and they need to be moved away from the hut to allow it to be painted.

10. Canal Information Centre in Camden Town.

10.1 At the time of the meeting, the status of the revised Starbucks planning application was unknown, and there was insufficient time to discuss the various scenarios that the Friends might support or oppose.

10.2 A few days after the meeting, the chair sent a bulletin to all subscribers of the Friends of Regent's Canal, to announce some news about a planning enforcement and appeal.

11. Camden Biodiversity Action Plan.

11.1 The Friends had received a questionnaire from Kate Mitchell, the Nature Conservation Officer at Camden Council. This is to help to refresh the Camden Biodiversity Action Plan, which expires at the end of 2012.

12. Floating Cinema.

12.1 The Friends had received a fund raising request from Laura Harford, an Assistant Curator at UP Projects. The Floating Cinema is being relaunched next summer but it requires funding to finish off the boat build.

12.2 Further information is available via the following link.

13. Alternative Cycle Routes.

13.1 The chair drew attention to a 2-day towpath closure at the Narrow Boat pub in N1, and had suggested to CRT that this would be a golden opportunity to promote an alternative route through the side streets of Islington. He had printed 400 copies of a map and was looking for volunteers to hand them out to commuter cyclists on 8th and 9th November.

14. Mooring Proposals.

14.1 Mooring congestion is becoming a major problem on the Regent's Canal and various proposals are being drawn up to try to address it. To help to bring residents and boaters together, Community Resolve had arranged a meeting on 15th November under the heading "Building better relationships on London's waterways".

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