A last-ditch attempt to prevent the controversial demolition of two housing blocks on Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate without a prior ballot of residents has been rejected by Haringey Council’s scrutiny committee.
The opposition Liberal Democrat group had “called in” the council’s November decision to go ahead with demolishing the two blocks because of health and safety concerns, asking the committee of backbenchers to review the decision with the option of telling the council’s cabinet to think again.
Residents’ ballots on schemes involving demolishing social housing are the centrepiece of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s good practice guide on estate regeneration and new rules for City Hall funding.
Concerns about the late 1960s/early 1970s blocks, the 116-home Tangmere and the 101-home Northolt, were raised following structural surveys conducted in late 2017. Built, like the rest of the estate, using the large panel system used for constructing the Ronan Point tower, which partially collapsed in 1968 after a gas explosion, both blocks were found to be at risk of “progressive collapse caused by a force equivalent to a vehicle strike or bottled gas explosion”.
With strengthening costs estimated at some £33.6 million and rebuilding coming out at between £32 million and £54 million, the cabinet opted for demolition and rebuild. “Only strengthening the blocks would not offer our residents the decent council homes we are committed to ensuring all our tenants live in,” deputy leader Cllr Emine Ibrahim told the June meeting.
Following that meeting, consultations of the blocks’ residents found 91 per cent of respondents in Tangmere and 81 per cent in Northolt strongly or broadly agreed with the council’s preferred approach.
But Lib Dem councillor Dawn Barnes told the scrutiny committee, which met on Thursday, that the council was wrong to deny tenants and leaseholders a vote to choose between demolition or strengthening the blocks. “There is a choice, and this decision should be taken by residents,” she said.
Without an exemption from City Hall waiving the requirement for a ballot, funding from Sadiq Khan’s building council homes budget would also be put at risk, she added. The council has said it is seeking such an exemption.
Barnes was supported by Haringey Defend Council Housing group members Paul Burnham and Jacob Secker, who is also secretary of the Broadwater Farm Residents Association. “We have no details of what you are planning to do if you knock the blocks down,” said Secker. “There should be no demolition until you’ve held a ballot under GLA rules.”
Burnham said the demolition of the blocks could “start the ball rolling” for wider redevelopment. But the committee sided with cabinet members, with only Lib Dem councillor Pippa Connor arguing that the decision not to ballot residents should be reconsidered.
The committee’s decision comes a few days before a council by-election in the borough’s West Green ward, which includes the estate, caused by the resignation of Ishmael Osamor following publicity surrounding his conviction on drugs charges. The conviction was also followed by the resignation of Osamor’s mother, Edmonton MP Kate Osamor, as shadow international development secretary.
Officers confirmed that the council will hold a ballot of the whole 12 block estate when proposals for is future had been finalised. “Initial high-level capacity studies to determine how much housing could be built on the estate and where,” had been carried out, they said, and further work on the “vision, objectives and design principles for an estate regeneration project” would follow.
It is understood that work on an estate masterplan may begin in the new year. Haringey has been allocated almost £63 million under the Mayor’s council house building programme, but no details of allocations specifically for Broadwater Farm have been revealed.