Haringey: ‘Corbyn Council’ set to demolish unsafe homes on Broadwater Farm estate

by Dave Hill

The Labour local authority elected following the Momentum-led removal of previous councillors who had backed regeneration plans involving the future redevelopment of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham is set to sanction the demolition of two of the estate’s housing blocks.

A 70-page report to be considered at the first meeting of the new cabinet of Haringey Council, dubbed the nation’s first “Corbyn Council” by a local activist, describes the demolition and replacement of the homes as its “preferred option” after survey work discovered “structural issues” in “a number of blocks” on the estate that make them vulnerable to gas explosions, with the two in question, Tangmere and Northolt, found to be at particular risk.

In the report, the council’s deputy leader Emine Ibrahim, who is also its cabinet member for housing and estate renewal, acknowledges its finding that “it is possible to strengthen the two blocks to bring them up to habitable standard” but also writes that although “we don’t like the idea of demolishing homes” the cost of strengthening work would be “very high indeed” and in any case would not by itself “offer our residents the decent council homes we are committed to ensuring our tenants live in” (page 31, paragraph 2.2).

The cabinet is to recommend that residents of Tangmere are temporarily rehoused immediately and piped gas removed from the block by October. Ibrahim, whose cabinet responsibilities include Broadwater Farm resident engagement, also writes of Tangmere and Northolt that “the decision on the future of these blocks will not be taken now” because of a commitment to consult their current inhabitants. “We will fully take their views into account before taking any final decision either to demolish the blocks or to strengthen” (page 31, para 2.3). Ibrahim’s cabinet responsibilities include

The financial estimates for this early “key decision” for the new council says that “a total estimated cost” of strengthening  the “ziggurat” style Tangmere would be £19m or £164,000 per flat when other immediate investment needs are taken into account” and £14.6m or £145,000 per flat in the high-rise Northolt. The alternative of rebuilding the homes would also be expensive – in the range of £32-£54 altogether, according to the report, though this would “represent an investment in high quality new homes with a longer life and lower maintenance costs” and some of the cost “would likely be eligible for external grant which would reduce the cost to the council”.

Ibrahim, is a national vice chair of Momentum and was closely involved in the the candidate de-selection programme, which saw her replace her predecessor with the cabinet housing brief Alan Strickland as candidate and now councillor for Noel Park ward. She had previously represented Harringay ward, but chose to challenge Strickland instead having earlier put herself forward as an alternative to the then council leader Claire Kober in Seven Sisters ward without success. She sometimes spells her forename “Emina”, as in her Twitter profile.

The de-selection campaign focussed on the attitude of sitting councillors to the proposed formation of a 50/50 joint venture company with regeneration specialists Lendlease with the aim of redeveloping the council’s current civic centre, offices in Wood Green and commercial properties as well as housing stock the previous administration considered to be of low quality at higher densities and with a wider tenure mix. Broadwater Farm was expected to eventually be included in the programme. The survey work into the safety of its blocks began under the previous administration.

 

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