WE can expect some interesting discussions as political candidates line up to explain what they can do for St Peter’s ward. Next month’s by-election will be unique because this ward is unique. It encloses Islington’s longest stretch of the Regent’s Canal and one of its largest open spaces (City Road Basin) so it is a magnet for visitors. Its two boat clubs serve underprivileged youngsters.
Sadly, this ward also attracts regular and blatant anti-social behaviour in the form of commuter cyclists who exceed 5mph on crowded towpaths. To date, no serious injuries have been reported, but near-misses occur on a daily basis and numerous walkers avoid the towpath altogether.
These unrelaxed commuters represent only a small minority of the cycling community – and most of them live outside Islington – yet they bring the whole concept of cycling into disrepute.
The successful political candidate will hear stories about this from a wide range of constituents so it is important that he or she has an action plan for confronting this problem and is able to work closely with British Waterways, police and other parties.
Some people might find this an uninteresting by-election, by assuming that the results will have a negligible impact on the balance of power in Islington or that the choice of candidate is relevant to only one-sixteenth of the borough. However, this ward is a major focal point because thousands will descend on this area in September for the Angel Canal Festival and thousands more will continue to visit the area to enjoy its open spaces.
Their future ability to do this will depend on councillors’ determination to challenge controversial planning applications that threaten the Regent’s Canal's navigability, to unlock any physical barriers that turn public rights-of-way into seemingly private dead-ends and to help walkers reclaim their share of the towpath.
I look forward to hearing the candidates’ approaches to these issues.
Chair, Friends of Regent’s Canal
Published: 15th July, 2011