Regular correspondent and activist Hurendra Bhatt discovered more or less by accident that Islington Council had given planning permission for a six-storey building to be erected over a new supermarket (heavily rumoured to be Tesco) less than 100 yards away from his business, Universal Newsagents. He has enlisted the help of Emily Thornberry, MP Islington South and Finsbury, to find out whether planning procedures might have been flaunted as the only people seemingly consulted were those who faced demolition.

One of his main problems, though, is apathy. He can’t seem to rouse his fellow retailers in the area to take action before it is too late. So, if you are anywhere near the Holloway Road/Highbury Corner junction, join in. Otherwise, you may have everything to lose.

Hurendra has also been going nuts over what he perceives as his council’s “overstaffed, high-salaried pen-pushers finding dubious and extortionate ways to rob the public to meet their overspending”.

He has sent me a blizzard of faxes detailing correspondence he has had with the council over two recent ‘innovations’.

Islington has decided to levy a charge of £54.40 (for an unspecified period) apparently to prove that retailers have bought their rubbish disposal bags from them at £1 a time. Since he and the council already have a record of payment for these regular purchases he fails to see why he is being charged for an audit trail. And not just charged, but threatened with ‘late charges’ (£25 quid) and legal proceedings.

He has also been stuck with another payment of £33.50 a week, over and above his rates, as an extra levy under a 2004 amendment to the 1990 London Local Authorities Act Licensing Trading on Private Land.

The council says that any activity involving selling on land up to seven metres away from the public footway is not now covered by the exemption to street trading and would therefore require this extra licence.

The leader of the Islington Council Committee has claimed in the local paper, the Islington Tribune, that there have been “no increases in Council Tax this year”. Phooey to this, says Hurendra, who adds that he is surrounded by stealth taxes.