Deputation for 18th February 2008
This Deputation is brought by residents and traders from Tottenham who have come together under the umbrella title ‘Wards Corner Community Coalition’ (WCC). WCC promotes a community-driven, sustainable and restoration-based regeneration of the Wards Corner site to enhance the well being of local residents and traders.

Opposing Grainger’s destructive plans for Ward’s Corner
Haringey Council and the Bridge New Deal for Communities are working with Grainger plc to demolish all existing buildings on the Wards Corner site, evicting existing businesses in order to build high, private, gated flats and commercial rental units. We believe the resulting flats and business units will be unaffordable to local, diverse residents and businesses and will create a soulless and unloved place. We understand from Grainger that the Council did not at the outset give them guidance to explore retention of any of the existing buildings, homes and businesses, despite this being an aspiration of the 2004 planning brief for the site. Why was restoration not the Council’s primary brief for the Council’s chosen developer?

The destruction of Seven Sisters Market
Grainger’s approach will destroy Seven Sisters market which has been developing over recent years, despite a lack of infrastructural investment. The market has grown into a place with significant meaning as well as utility, particularly to the large Latin American community of South Tottenham. Whilst recognising the need for refurbishment and possibly some new building around the site, WCC opposes the wholesale destruction of the existing buildings and, more importantly, this significant Place of social and trading vibrancy. The market traders report being systematically ignored by both the Council and the NDC, despite many of them working there for years and paying local business taxes. An example of this has been the recent failure of the NDC to invite market traders to workshops on the implications of Grainger’s plans. WCC has been able to represent the interests of the market traders alongside the interests of residents and freehold and leasehold businesses. Whys have market traders been discounted by Councillors and the NDC?

The true meaning of ‘regeneration’ and ‘community participation’.
We believe the model of ‘development’ proposed for Wards Corner by Grainger is counter to true ‘regeneration’ because it does not build on existing communities’ needs and wishes and is not founded on existing or potential local enterprise. Regeneration can only succeed if it builds on those things which are locally valued and augments the sense of unique place with which community members can identify and feel proud. It must, therefore, be founded on inclusive, participative processes that draw in all parts of the community so they can have a say in what is important to them. This principle is what WCC has been trying to achieve.

From the outset, local people should be able to influence concept, design, choice of developer and execution of the scheme. This is expected best practice in major urban redevelopment and regeneration and is part of the Council’s ‘Place Shaping’ responsibilities. Even if one were to embrace the need for rebuilding at this site, the design concepts presented to date have been deemed outmoded, out of place and unattractive by most who have seen them. Their failure to receive a warm welcome must be attributed in large part to lack of community engagement.

Criticism of the Council’s lack of meaningful community involvement in Wards Corner plans goes back to a previous deputation in 2003 when the planning brief was being developed. From 2004 to 2007, there was, in effect, ‘silence’ from the Council and NDC on Wards Corner. Then in 2007, we were offered a tokenistic ‘consultation’ by a communications company on behalf of the developers. No meaningful consultation has been led by the Council or NDC. Why has the Council risked the failure of this scheme by not ensuring a robust participative process was followed in developing the proposals from the start?

The Council’s Role in protecting the rights and well being of residents and local businesses.

In addition to opposing the destruction of the Wards Corner site in principle, WCC is also aware of specific actions by Grainger plc – and absence of actions by the Council and NDC – which have left some residents and traders open to severe abuses of power and misinformation.

Many long-standing (e.g. 25 plus years) residents and businesses would be evicted by Grainger’s proposals. We have evidence that Grainger’s piecemeal acquisition of properties over the last two years has been occurring without current residents and businesses knowing what is happening, often finding out about a change of landlord months later. Grainger has bought properties of longstanding residents who themselves had a legal entitlement to buy freeholds.

The Council and NDC have provided no information or advice on the rights of these businesses and residents or possible compensation for their losses. Some private freeholders have also reported being pressured to sell by Grainger long in advance of any proposal being created for the site and being given, at best. partial, at worst misleading, information about their potential position should compulsory purchase be pursued. Why has the Council failed to protect the interests and basic rights of these residents and businesses and allowed them to be put in vulnerable situation by the underhand actions of their ‘chosen developer’?

The relationship between the NDC and the Council in respect of Wards Corner

WCC has evidence that the Council has steered the NDC in the allocation of £2m of NDC funds to support Grainger’s profits. The NDC exists to improve the quality of life of people in its area and it is tasked with achieving this through participative processes. WCC questions the legitimacy of the use of this £2m by the NDC a) because of the questionable principle of subsidising private profit and b) because even if a case for this can be made, it occurred without the NDC undertaking a competent community consultative process. The NDC has not demonstrated that it knows how to engage the wide and complex constituency with an interest in Wards Corner. It particularly has failed to engage in the very difficult problems that the proposals are raising for local businesses and residents facing eviction. What is the Council’s responsibility to ensure that the NDC is competently undertaking its role in engaging and representing the community in the absence of Council’s direct leadership of these issues?

What WCC has been doing – community voice and the alternative community plan.

WCC has grown in a short space of time to harness the energy and ideas of many local people and interest groups. It is not party politically aligned in any way.

In the absence of any other participative or democratic opportunities for people to have a say on how Wards Corner is transformed, WCC has emerged. The Coalition has sprung up out of the commitment, anger and talent of local people and offers way place for people to articulate what they want together. We believe WCC represents a type of effective innovative community participation that the Council should note. We also believe that WCC demonstrates some of the diverse positive abilities and perspectives of the people of Tottenham.

Through the significant investment of the Seven Sisters Market traders, an alternative Community Plan for the Wards Corner site has been submitted for planning permission. This human-scale and very beautiful design retains, renovates and sensitively remodels existing buildings and the market. It still offers the possibility of residential developments in parts of the wider site. It opens up the flow of people around the buildings, makes provision from new public open space and implies a future for the site which builds on positive continuity from the past. It respects the people of Tottenham – not least because it has been developed in dialogue between the architect and local people. The carbon footprint of a restoration based regeneration will be significantly less than the Grainger plan. The Community Plan is explicit about providing ‘entry-point’ small business and retail opportunities, thus maintaining Tottenham’s role as a place where small businesses can start up. But it signals a more optimistic environment to help business flourish and to attract people and business into the area. Socially, economically and environmentally we believe the alternative plan represents the sort of sustainable development Haringey Council should be supporting. Why can the Council not support the initiatives of the WCC, get behind the people of South Tottenham in all their diversity and promote the Community Plan and the principles underlying it?