The canal still has enemies as well as friends

Thursday, 16th June

Islington Tunnel

The canal tunnel

• THIS time two years ago we were hoping for a season of celebrations to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Regent’s Canal.

At the heart of those celebrations was the Islington Tunnel, the borough’s most impressive monument.

However, most of the planned events were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we put all our celebrations and activities on hold.

Little did we know that, while we were all shielding, the Newlon developers were plotting a scheme that would turn the canal into a canyon and the celebrated tunnel into something resembling a drainpipe at the base of their bulky tower blocks.

Whether by accident or by design, the developers have managed to hold dozens of workshops, exhibitions and community events without alerting or inviting any canal representatives. Yet the impact of the tower blocks on the neighbouring canal is severe.

As a result they have submitted a design that is back-to-front, with the tallest and least attractive elements abutting the open water space instead of being buried in the middle of the site.

As canal supporters we have a duty to object to this aggressive plan in the hope of protecting this open space for future generations.

If Islington Council is unsuccessful in taming this design then we must find ways of mitigating its impact on the canal and we must promote the tunnel portal before its significance is lost for ever.

The view from Thornhill Bridge will become unpalatable to anybody who remembers the days when Islington had a modest skyline.

But hopefully the intervening trees will screen the towpath users from the overbearing structures and they will continue to appreciate the approach to the tunnel portal.

Fortunately this stretch of the canal should remain intact for another seven years, since the tower blocks will not materialise until around 2029.

But this scheme has certainly given us a wake-up call to remind us that the canal still has enemies as well as friends.

IAN SHACKLOCK
Friends of Regent’s Canal

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