“History cannot give us a program for the future,
but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves,
and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”

Robert Penn Warren

The stories that are the many strands of the ever growing narrative of Wards Corner's history are too many to begin to be told here, but spend a little time talking with the people who live and work above Seven Sisters tube station and you'll find yourself immersed in the lore of a place that means so much to so many.

For now though, take a look at our timeline for an overview of the last few years of the campaign below and read the more detailed history of the campaign and of the Wards Corner building by following the links.

What is Wards Corner?

The area called ‘Wards Corner’is bounded by the High Rd, West Green Rd, Suffield Rd, and Seven Sisters Rd.

The site is home to an early-Edwardian department store, Wards Furnishing Stores,which traded until 1972.The steel-framed building is largely intact, locally listed and, despite neglect for over forty years, still holds an iconic place in the hearts and minds of many local people. The site marked for demolition and development in the plans of the developer and Haringey Council, extends beyond the old department store and includes a range of other Edwardian and Victorian buildings as well as open and derelict spaces. The site totals 0.65 hectares.

When the Wards Furnishing Store’s building closed in 1972 – just seven years after the opening of the Victorian Line tube station underneath – the site’s future was immediately put in doubt. The Council announced its intention to demolish the area’s buildings, but firm plans were not put forward until 2007.During those 35 years of limbo, the area became a home for many people: businesses opened, grew and were sustained. An indoor market opened and, in the last ten years has become established, not least because of the influence of a strong Latin American trading community.

The threats and uncertainty over the future of the site have deterred investment in the fabric of the buildings. Transport for London (TfL) has allowed their properties to lie derelict, and under-occupied despite interest in the buildings from many businesses. The market traders would love to see improvements, but very little is done to maintain their accommodation. Two houses owned by the developers – Grainger plc – have been sealed up with concrete blocks for over two years, adding to the feeling of neglect for those living in and using the street.

The site ownership is now complex. There are some retailers who own the freehold on their building/business. The Wards Stores building itself,which now houses the market on the ground floor, is in public ownership (being the property of TfL); Haringey Council owns some houses; and the proposed Council-backed developers, Grainger, have recently acquired some retail and residential buildings and a small car park.

An interactive map giving a brief overview the Wards Corner site and surrounding area. (to view full screen click on the top right hand box).

What have the Council and the developers been proposing?

In August 2007 Haringey Council entered into a Development Agreement with Grainger to develop Wards Corner. The site was brought into the boundary of the Bridge ‘New Deal for Communities’, and this organisation was later used to route large public subsidies to Grainger, prior to planning permission being granted. The high-rise, chain-retail, gated-flat development attracted immediate negative reaction from both the local community and inhabitants of the site.

Some of the traders immediately mobilised and hired an architect to create an alternative vision of the site; to include preservation of the main Wards building, growth of the market and continuity for local businesses. At once, the possibility of a different future for Wards Corner emerged; one which resonated with local opinion.

The Campaign, the legal victory

The WCC campaign has grown since forming in late 2007, but has always kept its focus on inclusivity; seeking out the quietest and least powerful, but equally relevant, voices in this story of potential urban change. Although delays and changes to the original plans were achieved, not least through the interventions of the Greater London Authority and the Mayor directly,Grainger did have their plans approved by Haringey Council in November 2008.However, this served only to galvanise the WCC further.

After nearly three years of relentless, focused and highly creative campaigning, the WCC recently won a landmark judgement in the High Court, and the developers had their planning permission for the Wards Corner site repealed in July 2010.The Council’s planning processes in respect of this application were found not to have followed duties under Equalities legislation. They had failed to assess the impact of the proposed development on relations between different racial and ethnic groups and on equality of opportunity in this area of Haringey. The people of Tottenham frequently feel their voice is ignored while the voices of people in more affluent areas of Haringey – Highgate,Crouch End,Muswell Hill for instance – are taken into account. WCC has become a lens for bringing this inequality into focus and saying ‘No More’.