One of the key councillors behind Labour-run Haringey’s plans to form a joint venture company with a major property firm has pledged to continue “building on its foundations” in the months before May’s borough elections, despite the growing possibility that a new Labour administration will be opposed to it.
Writing in Estates Gazette, Alan Strickland, Haringey’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning, gave the strongest public signal yet that he and his councillor allies in the current ruling Labour group intend to push ahead with the formation of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) in a 50:50 deal with Lendlease despite strong opposition to it among local members, saying he will focus on “securing the long-term partnership that will deliver on behalf of Haringey’s residents for generations to come”.
Strickland announced last week that he would be standing down as a councillor at the election having failed to secure automatic re-selection to contest his Noel Park ward next year. Council leader Claire Kober has been re-selected, but a string of other sitting Labour councillors have been defeated by rivals who say they oppose the HDV, backed by the Haringey branch of Momentum, the campaigning organisation formed to support the leadership of Labour by Jeremy Corbyn.
The Stop HDV campaign, which draws support from Momentum, members of the Green Party, the Socialist Workers Party and the Liberal Democrats, estimates that 35 of the 42 Labour candidates so far selected to fight Haringey’s 57 council seats in six months’ time are against the HDV. Labour currently holds 49 of those seats and is expected to again form by far the largest party group next May, but the majority of it now looks certain to be opposed to the current leadership’s most radical and contentious policy.
A spokesperson for Lendlease last week re-affirmed the company’s commitment to the joint venture plan, telling On London it believes “the partnership approach of the HDV and further consultation with the communities affected will ensure that local people benefit from its success from the outset”. Another pro-HDV councillor has told On London that the leadership intends to “tie down” as much of the deal as it can before the elections take place. Depending on the situation at the time, a successor anti-HDV Labour administration would have to consider its options for unpicking any agreements in place.
In a staunch defence of the HDV model, Strickland wrote that council tenants whose homes were demolished under the redevelopment programme, whose first phase would encompass council offices and its Civic Centre as well as the Northumberland Park housing estate, will be “guaranteed a right to return on equivalent terms” and that “no one living in Haringey will be worse off as a result of regeneration”. He added: “These cast iron commitments are embedded in the legal agreements of the HDV. They are non-negotiable.”
In a clear reference to opponents in his own party, Strickland said it is wrong to claim that the HDV “means wholesale privatisation of public assets” and he attacked what he called those “whose abhorrent accusations of ‘social cleansing’ serve only to stoke unwarranted fears and divide communities”. He also lambasted those whose “ideological opposition” would, he claimed, “see a once-in-a-generation opportunity of lasting change lost forever”.
Asked today if he thought blocking the HDV would be a good thing for London, Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was limited in what he could say, as any major planning application related to the joint venture company might come before him for consideration in future, but he expressed the broader view that “London councils in general, because they have been starved of resources by central government for a number of years now, it’s very, very difficult for them to build new homes or to regenerate estates” and that “joint ventures are one way to do that”.
Speaking at the giant Barking Riverside development site where he was launching the draft of his new London Plan, the Mayor said joint ventures were a “good way to bring in revenue and for councils to invest in their communities”. Stressing the need to retain and if possible add to the numbers of homes available at council-level rents, he added that through the right partnership of public and private sectors “you can meet the needs of your current residents and those desperate to be re-housed”.