Thursday, 31 May 2012

Tottenham, Seven Sisters, Wards Corner: Homes and livelihoods at stake. Who is 'regeneration' for?

A touch of tinpot dictatorship took a grip of Tottenham Town Hall last night (30 May).
Heavy security for a public meeting…with some real ‘heavies’ too.
No cameras.
No recording. 
Not much press freedom here. And, cheekily, a council officer asked if any media were present. Perhaps he wanted to ban my notepad too. Jobs and livelihoods were at stake but this exercise in local democracy came with a strong pong of cynicism.
 Last night’s public meeting was billed by Haringey Council as a ‘development management forum’ to give local Tottenham residents a chance to ask questions about developer Grainger’s latest planning application to demolish and develop Wards Corner. It's a famous local landmark and a longstanding cluster of homes, shops and a market run by Latin American, African and Asian traders above Seven Sisters tube station. 
 Wards Corner is also more than simply a little local Tottenham difficulty. Wards Corner also raises a London-wide question, 'Is regeneration for existing local people and independent traders or for wealthier newcomers and chain stores?'
 Haringey and Grainger have a longstanding development agreement to develop Wards Corner. Apparently, the agreement expires soon. Nerves and patience seem to be expiring too.
 The meeting itself ended abruptly amid anger and disarray after little more than half an hour. There were no flames but a bit of heat and fire.
 Many of the 250 people in the hall voiced their dismay at Grainger’s planning agent, Chris Frost of ASP. Frost angered opponents of Grainger’s plans when he said he was unable to answer certain questions.
 They also angrily chastised Haringey councillors and officers for refusing to answer their questions.
 As security guards cleared the uproarious room, a predictable urban choreography unfolded outside the town hall on Tottenham High Road. The Council and Grainger, whose development agreement on Wards Corner runs out this summer, can now both claim they did their best to dutifully carry out their legal responsibility to consult local people - although no Grainger representative was present.
 Opponents of Grainger’s latest scheme, many belonging to the Wards Corner Coalition of residents, business people and market traders, jeered Frost and his colleagues and Haringey officers as they left the Town Hall. Several claimed both Grainger and Haringey had deliberately intended to refuse to answer questions or hear local people’s views. Pantomine definitely came early to Tottenham this year.
 Just outside Seven Sisters tube station an unruffled spokesman for a PR agency representing Grainger told me that people at the meeting were not representative of local residents.
 He claimed a majority of 577 adult Seven Sisters residents showed their “overwhelming support” for Grainger’s proposals in a face-to-face, door-to-door survey carried out by the ComRes agency last April. Outside the Town Hall, one local resident, who didn't want to be named, voiced her support for Grainger's plans as "modernist" and "just what the area needs for its young people".
 Asked why Grainger, self-billed as the UK’s largest residential developer, are so intent on developing Wards Corner – despite fierce and long-standing local opposition – the PR guy said Grainger was simply committed to improving the area, adding that some of Grainger's corporate officers had personally invested many years of their careers into making sure the soon-to-expire Haringey-Grainger development agreement achieves its aims.
 Haringey received Grainger’s latest planning application – HGY/2012/0915 – on 8 May, 2012. Haringey said the planning committee – to the astonishment of many in the meeting – will convene as early as 25 June to determine the application.
 Before the mayhem cut short the meeting, David Schmitz, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Harringay ward, did manage to pose one question for Haringey’s council officers.
Sadly, Councillor Schmitz’s politely posed question went unanswered, but it’s important…and it’s here, for the record: “Can you explain why in the past year no major planning application has been dealt with within thirteen weeks of it being submitted but we are now dealing with this application within six weeks? Just how are the officers and councillors able to do this…and will the planning committee be graced by the presence of the Labour chief whip?”

 More detail on Wards Corner will feature soon on

Photo top: Wards Corner Coalition posters at Seven Sisters tube station. 
Above: Jenny Jones, Green Party candidate who finished third in the 2012 London mayoral election, lends her support to opponents of the Grainger plan for Wards Corner.

Photos: © Paul Coleman, London Intelligence, May 2012.

Paul Coleman, London, May 2012


Val12345 said...

As one answer to the 'big question' in this report made by David Schmitz, there is in fact one other application very recently heard in less that 13 weeks (6 to be precise), and that was the Spurs application. Perhaps this wasn't big enough for him to remember, but especially odd that he was actually on the planning committee and congratulated officers for getting the application to councillors so efficiently.

Also especially odd to have a go at the council for being efficient, may be he realises he has no argument and he doesn't have the backbone to accept that there is no alternative and Tottenham needs these jobs and investment from Grainger. As a side note look how well they did at Hornsey Road baths.

David Schmitz - a bafoon

Pam I said...

Hornsey Road baths were not demolished wholesale. They were forced to leave the old parts of the building in place. LBH's original brief could have done this for Wards Corner when they wrote it, instead they have just handed the keys to this important site to a developer which has no investment in local people and businesses - a role that should be championed by the council. Ethnic cleansing is easy if you have the money and the elected rep majority has given you the power.

Jim said...

The market traders who are up in arms about this development are thinking only of themselves. They are not bothered about the architecture, they are only concerned that their rents will increase. This selfish attitude is at the expense of the rest of the community. The vast majority of residents feel unsafe and depressed in the area and want things to be improved. The proposals will have huge benefits for the many; it would be a tragic waste if they are blocked by the few.

Topspurs said...

Regeneration is definitely required and if the Grainger plan is not implemented it will be a big missed opportunity to improve the area. There is already plenty of affordable housing in Tottenham. If we want to see a real improvement in the area a better ratio of affordable and non affordable housing is required.

If the WCC had their way with the Grainger plans Tottenham will stay how it is i.e. run down and neglected. Has the Tottenham/London riots taught us nothing!

I bet a lot of the objecting to the Seven Sisters regeneration also objected to the Spurs stadium redevelopment.