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‘Play spaces for all’ garden row in Angel

Social-rent residents are denied access at development that housing boss says ‘would never get approval’ if it came before planning chiefs today

05 April, 2019 — By Calum Fraser

The garden space at Red House Square

TOWN Hall chiefs have criticised a housing association for not allowing social-rent residents to access a garden on their estate.

Islington Council’s housing boss, Diarmaid Ward, said that the design for a development off Essex Road in Angel, which only allows private leaseholders to use the garden, would not be passed by planning officials if it came up today.

Residents in Red House Square have welcomed the council’s call for housing association Southern Housing Group to open up the garden behind the block at 313-317 Essex Road to all.

Cllr Ward said: “This development would never get approval today and we call on all building managers to ensure that existing play spaces are accessible for all, regardless of tenure. We have raised our serious concerns with Southern and look forward to discussing solutions.”

The development was given planning permission in 2002.

Current planning policy resists gated communities and pushes developers to create play spaces and gardens that are available to all.

Cllr Ward added: “The council requires all new developments to adhere to tenure-blind principles, and we have been clear that all new formal play spaces should be free and accessible. Any planning application that would exclude affordable housing tenants from communal spaces would be strongly resisted.”

A sign indicating who can use the garden

Southern Housing have confirmed that they are working with the council and are “engaging with residents” in a bid to resolve their concerns.

A mother-of-five, who lives in Red House Square, said: “My little ones would love to go and play in that garden. During the summer it can get quite crowded in our play area. It would be a nice safe place where I can let them run around in the grass.”

Another resident said that he had never considered it was possible to enter the garden.

He added: “I’ve walked past there about a million times on my way to work. I didn’t think it was something we were supposed to be allowed in.

“I’ve seen a bunch of people out there in the summer having barbecues and stuff.”

A sign on the gates to access the garden says “private” and “block 313 & 317 Essex Road residents only”.

A spokesman for Southern Housing said: “We are a not-for-profit social housing provider. We take care to ensure that communal spaces on our estates are accessible to all our residents. Our homes at 313 and 317 Essex Road are shared ownership properties and have access to a communal garden.

“We are aware of concerns raised about access to the gardens at the rear of 313 and 317 Essex Road.

“We want to do the right thing. We are actively liaising with the local authority and we are engaging with our residents to ensure that we resolve this to everyone’s satisfaction.”

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