David Gibson elected Vice-President of the Society

David Gibson, who stood down as Chairman of the Islington Society last year, was elected a Vice-President of the Society at its Annual General Meeting last night, in acknowledgement of his ten years in office and the considerable contribution he has made both to the Society but also to the Borough in general over many years. The Society has not had a Vice-President since the death of distinguished local historian Mary Cosh in 2019.

The new Chairman, Peter Kilborn, said: ‘David has been a tremendous asset to the Society in his tenure as Chairman and no one is more worthy of this honour. I am delighted that he will be staying on our committee and continuing to provide his knowledge and experience to the Society in the future.’

He also said in his report to members:

‘The highlight of the year has been the publication on our website of the revised version of the Local List – the list of buildings in the borough not statutorily protected but of architectural or historical value, all based on personal on-the-spot appraisals by a team of volunteers. This has been a prolonged and fairly tortuous endeavour and it is a matter of great pride that we have brought it to a conclusion. It has also marked a modest shift in the Society’s priorities is focusing on the extent to which the history of the borough bears on the appearance and development of Islington in the future.

‘Another highlight has been the planned relocation of the House of Illustration, now to be renamed the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration, to the long-neglected but historically significant New River Head site off Amwell Street. This is the excellent outcome of many years of endeavour by the Society and others to protect the site from developers and the new use of the buildings will be a significant enhancement to Islington as a whole.

‘We have also continued to watch with satisfaction the work of renovation and restoration at Holy Trinity Cloudesley Square, which has now been made safe and ready to begin its new incarnation as The Cloudesley Centre.

‘Despite the pandemic, the work of the world has continued, and there has been no shortage of contentious issues this year: low-traffic neighbourhoods; the Council’s plans to build on its own green space; the Holloway Prison site. These are all complex issues and the Society, whilst keeping a close eye on events, has opted for a measured approach to them. We have welcomed the LTN initiative but deplored the way it has been implemented and the piecemeal approach to after-the-event consultation. We have appreciated the Council’s plight in having to address housing needs within impossible financial constraints but deplored the insensitive way in which green space has been sacrificed in order to meet the government-imposed targets and objectives. We have watched with apprehension the proposed relaxation of national planning regulations, now hopefully being reconsidered. We welcome the redevelopment of the Prison site for social housing but are taking a close interest as planning applications proceed.

‘We have been accustomed in recent years to feel that we were working in reasonable harmony with the Council and its policies. It must be said this has been somewhat challenged this year. All too often there has been a sense that the Council is pre deciding important issues of planning and then engineering their acceptance through facile online consultations. The Society’s representations have seldom resulted in any change of direction. Only when full-scale enquiries are set up do our views seem to get listened to. We are fearful that these trends represent a downgrading of the planning function.

‘As a result of the pandemic, it has not been a typical year for the Society but despite that and thanks to the continued loyalty of our members we have managed to keep the Society alive and kicking.’