Arsenal fans celebrated the opening of their sparkling new stadium at the weekend but one local resident says the surrounding development deserves a red card

Did you switch on to the glorious inaugural match of Arsenal’s spectacular new £220m stadium at Islington, north London? Whether or not you joined in the celebration, the match and stadium itself mask the unpalatable truth that this is a dismally unsustainable piece of urban regeneration.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the Arsenal stadium redevelopment is all about providing a new 60 000-seater stadium. No, the stadium is just a very sprightly tail wagging a large, unwieldy dog.

The dog in this case is a conglomeration of 2500 new and refurbished homes, 40 000m2 of new commercial space and, incongruously enough, a new £60m waste recycling centre. The waste recycling centre and much of the commercial space were relocated because the football club took a fancy to the site they occupied. For its part, the new housing was a straight property speculation deal to pay for the new stadium.

Well, let’s go through what Islington is ending up with:

  • To start with football supporters themselves, they are not allowed to use the existing Drayton Park branch railway station right next to the site, because of fears it might get congested.
  • Lack of improvement to public transport means that the 2500 new homes come with 1750 new car parking spaces. The area already has one of the highest densities of population in central London and is choked by too much traffic and inadequate public transport. And, unlike periodic football matches, additional housing and workplaces increase traffic congestion all day every day.
  • In the planning permission granted in 2001, only 25% of the housing was earmarked as social housing, half that of Ken Livingstone’s current target. As extra housing units for sale have since been slipped in, the level of affordable housing has fallen even further.
In a word, the Arsenal redevelopment is about densification of an already dense inner-London borough. But for densification to work, the transport and social infrastructure must be intensified to support it, and this isn’t happening at Arsenal.