Community Fights Back Over Tottenham Regeneration

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 35 months ago
Community Fights Back Over Tottenham Regeneration

Housing in Tottenham Hale. Photo by Alan Stanton from the Londonist Flickr pool

Residents and community groups in Tottenham say the council's regeneration plans will destroy the feel of the area - and have organised a conference to come up with alternatives to the proposals.

The council says it wants to create 10,000 new homes, 5,000 new jobs and 1m square feet of new commercial space.

But among objections from those living in the area is the claim that social housing is being replaced with mixed tenure (a combination of homes for outright purchase, shared ownership, private rent, 'affordable rent' and social housing). This would force less affluent people out of Tottenham, say the residents.

There are also fears about the corporatisation and blandification of Tottenham, of featureless housing and shopping blocks with chain stores replacing independent, local businesses. In short, that Tottenham will start to look just like anywhere else.

Wards Corner is a case in point. The council and developers Grainger have been working for several years on proposals that would see the site above Seven Sisters tube station demolished and the indoor market moved out. The market provides around 150 jobs from its 60 diverse businesses, particularly from the Afro-Caribbean and Latin American communities, not to mention the shops on the outside of the building.

The Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC) says an expected tripling of rents would destroy the current community aspect of the market, and has won planning permission to restore the Wards Corner department store in an attempt to show that there's another way towards regeneration. However, the council has still granted planning permission to Grainger and has been discussing Compulsory Purchase Orders for the site, which would contain no 'affordable housing' (though a recent decision to sell nearby Apex House to Grainger would result in 39 per cent 'affordable housing').

We can probably all agree that Tottenham has its problems. And we can probably also agree that in the current economic climate, the only way the council's going to get any money to make significant changes is to let developers make a profit. We may not like it, but that's the situation right now. But we really can't get our heads round the idea that bringing in a bunch of new residents, presumably wealthier than the current community to be able to afford the different housing types, will do anything to solve the kind of tensions seen after Mark Duggan's shooting. It's even possible that a development that alienates the local population results in even greater distrust.

So, a coalition of community groups has come together to form Our Tottenham. It's creating its own community plan; a way to make Tottenham a better place to live without potentially destroying what people currently love about it. And on Saturday 11 October there's a conference for locals to find out about the council's plans and also to come up with community-led alternatives. The conference is free, but sign up via Eventbrite to let them know you're coming (and so they can get enough cups of tea in).

Last Updated 10 October 2014

Alan Stanton

Thanks for using my photo, Rachel.

I read the piece above which seems fair and balanced. I write that as a local resident for thirty-two years - sixteen of those as the Labour ward councillor. And someone now horrified at the right-wing Tory policies being driven through by nominally Labour politicians in Haringey.
  Although I'd like to suggest that gentrification as such is not the central issue. It is - as Professor Loretta Lees and others have said - that a policy of social cleansing is being used to facilitate a land grab by developers, speculators and businesses, They see Tottenham as a "next big thing" after Hackney and Islington; Brixton; and Elephant & Castle. Now Tottenham is in the firing line for those who want to make money by displacing existing residents.
  Of course, this isn’t how the plans are presented. Like the consultants and planners, the plans are dressed in smart new suits with obfuscating language. The main rationale for the land grab is the pretence that they’re creating new "mixed communities". And in Tottenham especially, this comes with a fake prospectus: that it will solve the social problems which led to the Riot.
  A key part of this rationale is to blame council-owned housing. Social housing is 'out'. The watchword is "affordable" housing. Affordable means that it's probably unaffordable for most of the people now living in existing estates. So goodbye to as many council tenants as possible. Especially where their homes happen to sit next to a river frontage. Or adjoin a football club which thinks a walkway for its supporters and high price apartment blocks is far more important than local people's homes and businesses.
  So isn’t a mixed community a good thing? Sure. It’s one reason we enjoy living here. Perhaps surprisingly if people don't know this area, Tottenham already is a "mixed community". That mixture has a wide variety of aspects - including race; ethnicity; class; religion; ages; educational background; and the jobs people do.
  The practical application of this right-wing theory serves to "unmix" the very communities which our local Muswell Hill colonial rulers so often praise. "Tottenham’s a great place", they protest. (A senior Council officer having used the term “War Zone”.) Their logo says: "I heart Tottenham". They love it so much they want to demolish as much as possible to build tower blocks.
  This would be ironic if it wasn't a prelude to tragedy. A tragedy for some families and businesses. And for all of us who now live in an area blighted by the uncertainties of development and schemes imposed by "experts" – with their arbitrary lines on maps which have little regard for our neighbourhoods and for residents.
  But they don't need to understand much about us, do they? Because they work simply to deliver plans formulated by a failing Council in warm togetherness with its developer pals. And they use the obfuscatory language of "development", "regeneration", and "mixed communities" - which is the same whichever part of London the planners and property companies move in on.
  As well as many small personal tragedies. There's also a larger one which will have an serious wider impact. By this I mean that after the 2011 Riot there was a genuine opportunity for rethinking. Many people were jolted out of their complacency. Familiar streets suddenly looked strange; and familiar plans and solutions were clearly not working. Naively, a few of us even thought that 'business as usual' wasn’t an option.
  We should have known better. As Naomi Klein showed, business seizes on the shock of riot and fire, just as it exploits flood and hurricane. These are used as a licence to move into poorer areas and neighbourhoods and remake them – but not for the benefit of local people.
  The foolish plans of Haringey Council and its development "partners" risk far more damage to families, local businesses, and the communities in Tottenham than the August 2011 Riot ever did.

The headline message is plain. To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, the people of Tottenham have forfeited the confidence of the Muswell Hill Colonial administration. They think it’s time to dissolve the people.

Alan Stanton

Guest

And how confused must the people of Tottenham feel, seeing 'their' MP David Lammy, mocking the concept of 'affordable housing' for his personal Mayoral campaign, yet remaining silent as his constituency is carved up to the benefit of developers and commercial interests.

Is Claire Kober and Alan Strickland's definition of 'affordable housing' any different to Boris Johnson's?

No. And the reason why? It has been defined to both major parties by the developers, private industry... Those whose imperitive is profit rather than parity.

Tottenham has been sold out... And you all voted for it.

Guest

Whether they like it or not, I feel that the regeneration is going to take place. The area is crying out for it - it's one of the poorest areas in London, crime rates are far too high and an independent commodity is offering to pay to do it. The powers that sitting in governmental seats have no choice but to eventually give in. The fact that this has taken so long is quite ridiculous, enough is enough - nobody likes change, but when someone comes in and offers to spend £400m revitalising a community then you take it with open arms.

Lucie

Bring it on. I live in Tottenham and feel pretty annoyed by these groups that claim to speak for 'the community' in their odd desire to keep the area down and ghetto. Seriously, who asked these people to keep making these unwelcome statements on everyone else's behalf. It's embarrassing - and extremely arrogant.

This is a part of London with huge potential and a lot already going for it, largely let down by its unfair reputation. We need to work hard to turn this around and while the current plans may not be perfect, I'd welcome any investment over nothing.

Lucie

Londonist> this headline is misleading and I think 'community' should be changed to 'community group' or similar, as this is not the view of most people in Tottenham, as implied, but the agenda of a relatively small group that is making a habit out of speaking for everyone in the area - without seeking anyone's permission.