Dave Hill: Build a new Latin Village for Seven Sisters, starting now

Dave Hill: Build a new Latin Village for Seven Sisters, starting now

Competition for being London’s most blinkered anti-regeneration cause celebre has been hot of late, but the campaign to save the indoor market by Seven Sisters Underground station, known as the Latin Village, is in this Donkey Derby’s leading pack.

Few can match it for stamina: for at least a dozen years, a quarrelsome yet self-replenishing alliance of conservationists, Protest Leftists, “community” agitators, Liberal Democrats and some of the traders operating in a section of a dilapidated former furniture store have been agitating against the property firm Grainger delivering Haringey Council’s policies for the area.

Throughout that time, they have succeeded in taking a whole herd of journalists for a ride and persuaded hundreds of members of the public to give them thousands of pounds to make plans for alternative developments that will never be built and for a legal challenge that has been laughed out of court

Last week, in a classic operation of its kind, a bunch of Save Latin Village activists dominated much of a People’s Question Time event in Wood Green in a vain and vainglorious attempt to get Sadiq Khan to take their side against the demolition of the rotting block known as Wards Corner and its replacement with something better for the people of the neighbourhood and, yes, for most of the Latin Village traders themselves.

Let’s look at some plain realities. There is, first and foremost, no way on this Earth that Haringey Council is going to break its long-standing legal agreement with Grainger for the Wards Corner building to be knocked down and redeveloped. To even try it would devour vast quantities of human and financial resources that could not possibly be justified. To press on would be suicidal.

Grainger has spent 15 years and millions of pounds negotiating the purchase of the site from its various owners and has reached agreement with the biggest and most significant one – Transport for London, which owns the part above the Underground station where the Latin Village is and is currently making sure it’s not about to fall down. Eventually, Haringey, being the relevant planning authority, used its compulsory purchase powers (CPO) to secure the last few bits of the jigsaw and so clear the way for the second part of the wider Seven Sisters regeneration to commence.

The first part is already nearly finished, though reading the propaganda of the “Save” campaign – much of it repeated and legitimised by Big Media outlets – you’d never know it. A building that was Haringey’s customer service centre has been replaced by Grainger with a new one directly across the Seven Sisters Road from Wards Corner to which Latin Village traders are entitled to temporarily decamp – rent-free for the first three months – while a permanent new home for them is constructed on the same site as the present one. While indignation is directed at the absence of any “affordable” homes in the Wards Corner plans, no mention is made that such dwellings comprise 40 per cent of those in the block across the street.

Needless to report, strenuous efforts to impede the improvement of Wards Corner have also been made within the council, reflecting the unending faction fighting and personal feuding of the majority Labour Group and a Liberal Democrat opposition whose stance appears identical to the Hard Left’s. Committees containing some of the world’s most devout worshippers of Jeremy Corbyn have done their very best to locate questionable pretexts for giving a vocal minority what its wants while, in the cloth-eared manner of their flattened hero, ignoring the preferences of others who live and work in Seven Sisters and what might be best for the area and the borough.

Council leader Joe Ejiofor, many of whose comrades have been plotting his removal since the day he took the helm of the so-called “Corbyn Council” in 2018, has been breaking it gently to Jeremy fans who continue to make local Labour politics nasty and daft that any attempt by him to “save” the Latin Village in its present form would be insane. He has set up his own group of councillors to work out a way forward and he and his cabinet have accepted some of the backbench underminers’ ideas. In-depth interviews conducted with most of the market traders themselves revealed that more than half of them are actually in favour of the regeneration plan.

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But even as the besieged leader tiptoes through these minefields, power over the process continues to pass into other hands. Much ire has been directed at the company that manages the market, but that part of this saga will be history when its contract expires later this year. The CPO will take effect. The traders will cross the road and a new building will start to rise next to Seven Sisters station. Some of the traders have already made their enthusiasm for this publicly known. Even hardened Haringey class warriors find the “Save” campaigners unrealistic and, in some cases, pretty unpleasant.

Of course, in the alternative universe the oppositionists inhabit, every other interested party is a spinner of fake news. They should take a hard look at themselves. It is proclaimed that the council has long been deaf to the voices of the traders and dismissive of alternative ideas. This is drivel. Special provisions to preserve a Latin American market space have been written into the plans since 2008 and in 2014 Haringey designated it an “asset of  community value”. Opposition leaders have been given time in the diaries of a succession of Haringey leaderships and even the top brass at City Hall.

Their “community plan” has been granted planning consent. But what its advocates didn’t mention to the 353 people from whom they raised over £9,000 is that it doesn’t stand a cat’s chance in Hell of being put into effect. The champions of this plan don’t own the building. They don’t have the resources to buy it, let alone develop it. The “community plan” will never be realised.

Last year, a judge dismissed the core contention of a legal bid to overturn the CPO as “inherently incredible“. Its proponents immediately asked for yet more money, saying they would seek to appeal. But anyone wanting to support the Latin Village and its traders should put their pounds to better use. When the Village moves to its temporary home across the road, they should go there and spend. And when the permanent new quarters for the Village opens, they should go there too and spend some more.

It is time to bring this farrago of presumption, self-indulgence and disinformation to an end. Seven Sisters will be graced by a new Wards Corner, with a new and much improved Latin Village market at its heart. Let that new market be built. Let’s help it to flourish. Let’s start that job right now.

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Categories: Comment

11 Comments

  1. I am probably on your side on this issue Dave but your piece so mixes up your opinion and prejudices that it is impossible to discern whether your case is strong or not. You really need to get back to basics, and get someone to report what is happening – and then perhaps do an opinion piece separately

    1. Dave Hill says:

      Christian, this is a comment piece. I’m sure you know what one of those is. I’ve done loads of reporting on this saga in the past, including dismantling the mountains of rubbish about it published by the Guardian, the Independent, New Statesman and so on.

    2. Christian Wolmar says:

      On my phone there is no badge to say it is comment. And it assumes far too much knowledge about a pretty complex story as there is no proper explanation of the history.

      1. Dave Hill says:

        Were you unable to detect a certain commenty tone to the piece…? And to me it seems packed with historical explanation, going right back to 2004.

  2. S J M says:

    If this is quality journalism, I’m the Queen of Sheba. Developers must smile with a real sense of pride knowing they have a true friend in Dave Hill when he writes pieces like this.

    1. Dave Hill says:

      I’m sure recourse to smears and slogans brings you comfort, but it will not alter the facts – the council cannot stop the development, the “Save” campaign has no chance of winning, and those clinging to the delusion that it does are engaging in pure self-indulgence.

  3. Will says:

    Think you are very wrong on this one Dave!

    The market and building is no doubt dilapidated and run down, but the council have purposefully let that happen, heaven forbid someone spends money sensitively restoring something, no what they really want is a vast tower full of tiny flats for rent, that will really regenerate the area.

    1. Dave Hill says:

      Am I wrong that it would be ludicrous for the council to seek to undo its legally-binding development agreement with Grainger? I don’t think so. Also, the council does not own the building. It is therefore not its responsibility to maintain it. I’ve had to remove one of the allegations in your comment because it was serious and unsubstantiated, but whatever objections you might have to the council’s historic relationship with the developer, it is not going to be undone. The thing to do now is to make this scheme work well for the Latin Village traders and the residents of Seven Sisters.

  4. Neville says:

    In spite of popular perception, the fact is that Haringey Council is neither business nor developer friendly. A lot of the buildings going up and other stuff happening in Tottenham are as a result of the use of taxpayers’ money. Private investment collapsed in Haringey years ago because of the council’s policies. This sorry saga has gone on for over 15 years with no end in sight. If the council had worked with the traders and developers from the beginning, then we would have had a nicely refurbished building, more shoppers could have been attracted to the market and local people could have been proud of it. Unfortunately, the council has made sure that they cannot be trusted to serve the local community.

  5. Matthew Stiles says:

    My wife, Marta Hinestroza, is a trader there and I remember Ken Livingstone visiting us (I think it was just before the 2008 election) and he remarked on the great potential of the site as a tourist attraction. TfL own the building so we thought great. Sadly, he lost the election and the redevelopment plan continued. She continued to fight the development plan all the way up to the 2017 CPO but when that was lost realised that there was little mileage in continuing the fight in the same way. There is a new council leadership in place but as Dave says in his piece, the cost of reneging on the agreement with Grainger would be very expensive.

    The Save Latin Village group is now a small subset group of the traders led by someone who has no interest in trying to unite the traders (and ironically supports right-wing politicians in Colombia). Also see https://twitter.com/MatthewStiles2/status/1068103219023396864

  6. Tristan says:

    Bravo. This and previous articles are very refreshing. Opinion piece or not, it’s very good to show a balance to this argument, especially when most of the articles from supposedly ‘reputable’ media outlets weigh heavy on the side of the ‘save’ crowd, published as fact without having their sources or info fact checked. I am a fan of the market but have been following the articles closely and speaking to people on the ground. A true skill is to publish a balanced article. I’m sure there is much more that we do not know or are not being kept privy to. Only when we have all the information can we make an informed decision on how to support, spend our money and fund accordingly. If we only have one side then we are being groomed by a populist movement, who probably don’t know or don’t want to know the truth, into adopting their faux liberal ideologies. The truth is out there people. Knowledge is power. Save Tottenham.

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