Property giant Lendlease is set to be selected as Haringey Council’s preferred bidder to form a £2bn “housing development vehicle” joint venture company and execute plans to transform the borough on what Haringey has called “an unprecedented scale”.
A report for the Labour-run council’s cabinet to be considered next Tuesday (14 February) recommends Lendlease be chosen to enter the proposed 50/50 partnership which, if established as expected in the summer, would take ownership of and redevelop dozens of council-owned sites including housing estates over the next 15 to 20 years, beginning in Tottenham and Wood Green.
The project has prompted expressions of concern among Haringey’s 49 Labour councillors and local party members, as well as some negative media coverage and the attention of protest groups. Anxieties have centred on the scale of the proposed enterprise, the financial risk involved and worries that democratic control over the process might be lost.
However, a recent meeting of the council’s majority Labour group voted by 29 to 18 in favour of an amended motion resolving that protections for Haringey residents and democratic processes be incorporated in all decisions about the housing development vehicle (HDV).
Alan Strickland, Haringey’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning, has written to local party members telling them that councillors have agreed “an important set of principles for the new company” which he says “make clear our intention of enshrining Labour values at the heart of the proposals” and ensure that “the purpose of the company is to improve the lives of our residents”. He adds that London Mayor Sadiq Khan “supports the proposals”. Khan’s draft good practice guide for estate redevelopment is currently out for public consultation.
Strickland and council leader Claire Kober have defended the housing development vehicle (HDV) against critics through social and other media, with Kober telling the Guardian that Haringey’s plans are “not privatisation” but a “bold step” towards improving life for residents in a deprived area when “doing nothing” in the context of government cuts would carry far greater risks. She had already said that council tenants will be rehoused on equivalent contracts and rents. Strickland’s letter to Labour members lists the following principles set out in the motion carried by the Labour group:
That decisions on the HDV should incorporate the following important protections for Haringey residents:
- That a clear commitment be made to council tenants to be re-housed on rent matching that of an equivalent council property and on the same terms, either on the estate or elsewhere in the borough, according to their choice.
- That to protect these homes for future generations of Haringey residents, we will not offer a ‘Right to Buy’ on replacement tenanted homes built by the development vehicle.
- That Haringey board members will work to secure HDV tenancy and evictions policies which protect vulnerable tenants.
- That overcrowded tenants will be offered a replacement property of a size that meets their needs.
- That a Residents’ Charter, setting out the expectations of Northumberland Park residents and written by residents themselves, be adopted by Cabinet to give a clear public commitment to meeting the ambitions of tenants and resident leaseholders.
- That the development vehicle will be bound by Haringey’s planning policy requiring at least 40% affordable housing and that the Council will seek to use profits from the vehicle to boost affordable housing numbers wherever possible;
- That we recognise the particular challenges facing resident leaseholders, and ensure a support package be developed so that they do not lose out
- That resident consultation be guaranteed, with a commitment that sites can only be transferred to the HDV once full resident consultation has taken place
That decisions on the HDV should incorporate the following important protections to ensure ongoing democratic control of major decisions:
- That no scheme or transfer of land can take place without Cabinet approving a business plan setting out expectations for: the number and type of homes, jobs and employment space required, need for new open space and community facilities, the timetable for development and an assessment of the key risks; and that notice of these decisions be available for Group discussion through the usual publicity in advance on the Forward Plan;
- That the HDV will report regularly to Cabinet on its work and progress towards agreed plans, based on clear and robust key performance indicators;
- That the agreement with the preferred partner should include commitments that the HDV’s corporate business plan be presented to Overview and Scrutiny Committee on an annual basis and that senior HDV staff will be available to answer questions at Overview and Scrutiny as required;
- That following discussion with ward councillors, a consultative structure will be agreed to make sure that councillors are kept fully informed about proposals in their ward, consulted at an early stage and able to inform the decision-making process;
- That the five month negotiation period from February to July 2017 be used to seek commitments from the preferred bidder on these issues, to discuss proposed governance structures with councillors and undertake a more detailed risk assessment; and that an update on these matters brought to Group in advance of July Cabinet.
Details of next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting are here.