As a passionate music fan I try to make full use of London’s vibrant music scene. It was at a recent concert at the Union Chapel in Islington, that I was not only wowed by the majestic venue, but also reminded of a city issue that I have come across in a professional and academic context; competition for space in a growing city.
Despite being voted ‘Best Live Music Venue in 2012′ the Union Chapel’s existence is being threatened by plans for a new housing development.
The Union Chapel
The Union Chapel not only offers a place for worship, but also an atmospheric space for community and cultural events and a place of sanctuary for those in crisis at the Margins Homelessness Project. It is made up of both Grade I and II listed buildings.
The Planning Issue
It is feared a proposal to build 90 new homes behind the Union Chapel could threaten how the Union Chapel currently operates. The scale and proximity of the new homes could result in potential noise and accessibility complaints from the new inhabitants. Conservation groups are also concerned about the height of the development stressing that the developers “should recognise the outstanding architectural importance in the group of surrounding listed buildings”.
Only a few days ago it was reported in the local press that historical and preservation groups are worried about planners protection of ‘Islington’s treasured buildings’, highlighting the development behind the Union Chapel as indicative of the problem.
The need for housing, particularly affordable housing within London
The issue is not clear cut, like many cities London faces competition and conflict over space, however, the importance of housing within London should not be underestimated. One of the Greater London Authorities (GLA) key aims is to provide more affordable housing for Londoners, they state that “despite being a prosperous city, London has the country’s biggest housing problems”.
Union Chapel have stressed they are not opposed to the new housing. They have collected 14 thousand signatories asking the Council to ensure the development safeguards their existing operations through the developers providing sound proofing and adequate loading bays. By implementing these requests the Council can ensure new housing is provided while safeguarding this important cultural venue. However it does highlight the balancing act required by planners in all cities.
In December Islington Council’s decision on the planning application was deferred (for the second time). However, this deferral has been attributed to the low proportion of affordable housing within the scheme rather than objections related to the Union Chapel, as the Council were satisfied that the activities of the Union Chapel would be safeguarded and the heritage objections would be overcome. Time will tell if the developers agree to these actions.
How you can take action:
- Add your name to the petition:
- Support the Union Chapel
It seems only right to finish this post with an iconic London song sung in the Union Chapel: