Mayor talks of challenge of ‘squaring the circle’ over borough’s housing

Squaring The Circle: Mayor Philip Glanville speaks at Mayor’s Question Time event, 26 November.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has spoken of the council’s attempts to ‘square the circle’ in polarised debates relating to housing and the night-time economy.

The borough leader’s comments were made at a Mayor’s Question Time public event, the first of the new administration since the 2018 London local elections.

The debate covered a wide range of topics relating to Hackney life, from parking restrictions to bids to tackle knife crime against a background of a recent surge in violence.

Hackney resident Nicola said: “As a single mother of a 14-year-old and a 9-year-old, we’re currently living in a 2-bed flat.

“Obviously that means that my children have to share a room, but if I’m being honest, my 9-year-old daughter sleeps with me.

“Is there a humane way, or a quicker way, for people like myself to move my family into a bigger home, and if any of these new builds that are about anywhere are going to be offered to people like myself who are waiting for a bigger home to live in for me and my children?”

The Mayor was later faced with questioning on the loss of much-loved playspace at Lincoln Court for the building of new homes by the Town Hall, and how the council balanced approached addressing housing needs with potential loss of amenity for Hackney.

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “Squaring the circle is difficult in a dense borough like Hackney and I’m not going to deny that.

“There is a housing crisis. We want attractive places to play as well as building new council housing, which is what we want at Lincoln Court.

“We will work with the community to make sure play is at the heart of that development, but that we do get brand new council housing for local residents.”

Responding to Nicola, Mayor Glanville said that her family’s circumstances were an example of ‘hidden homelessness,’ as she was “not visible unless you come to an event like this and talk about your story.”

Glanville said: “We haven’t ended homelessness until people like [Nicola] get the homes that they need for their children.

“There’s 13,000 people on the council’s waiting list. 1,000 of those are in the urgent band, and then there are those in temporary accommodation who are in the homelessness band.

“Because of the nature of the housing crisis, it can often feel like when you’re bidding that those houses never come down to you in the general band. We have 11,000 families actively bidding for about 100 properties a month.”

Glanville added that the council are building on vacant spaces on estates (or ‘infill’ construction) with a policy of allocating the newly-built properties under this scheme to already-existing residents in the area.

A similar theme on balance emerged during a debate on the night-time economy.

Hackney resident Jared challenged the Mayor on the consultation process that resulted in controversial licensing restrictions being put in place, which saw a majority of respondents speak out against the changes.

The consultation found an average 73 per cent negative response to the changes, though council officers said at the time that most respondents were white men aged 25 to 44, and therefore “not reflective of the borough as a whole”.

Glanville responded: “When we approached that licensing policy discussion, it wasn’t just consultation we used in making the decision. We were looking at the impact on public services, concerns around noise, and the challenges of managing the night-time economy.

“There were other sides to the debate and argument, and I think they are important too. You should have a balance, with people having a right to live in Dalston and Shoreditch and not be disturbed all of the time.

“Opening new music venues, and LGBTQI+ venues are very important, we’re cognisant of those things, and we want to see that happen. We all live in Hackney, it’s a very dense borough, and we should have a balance when it comes to the night-time economy.”

While the debate did not cover Brexit due to time constraints, the Hackney council leader did take a moment to make clear that he would be working with his colleagues towards a council motion on supporting a second EU referendum in the New Year.

Speaking after the meeting, a Hackney Liberal Democrat spokesperson said that the party “welcome[d] his assurances that a motion will be put forward at full council in January, although still question why it didn’t get raised before the Christmas break when so much of the key Brexit activity is happening.”

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