Haringey’s Labour cabinet has been advised to go ahead with the demolition of two housing blocks on Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate, boosted by the outcomes of consultations with residents which found large majorities in favour of the plan.
A report to be considered at a cabinet meeting next Tuesday (13 November), recommends (see page 29) that the tenants of the two blocks, named Tangmere and Northolt, be served with initial demolition notices and that rehousing and local lettings policies to apply to tenants who must be rehoused are also approved.
Tangmere and Northolt have recently failed structural tests which found them to be unsafe, persuading the cabinet back in June that demolishing and replacing them with new homes is the best course of action. The subsequent consultations found that 91 per cent of Tangmere residents and 81 per cent of Northolt’s who responded to them share the cabinet’s view.
The Broadwater Farm residents’ association has strongly argued that any decision about whether to demolish and rebuild or to strengthen the buildings as they stand should not be taken without a formal ballot of residents of the two blocks. Its secretary, Jacob Secker, said “an outrageous breach of basic democratic principles” was taking place by the council and that a key manifesto pledge was being broken.
However, the cabinet had already decided against balloting in this case and also to seek an exemption from London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s requirement that councils must demonstrate resident support for estate regenerations by means of such a vote as a condition for receiving financial support for demolition-and-rebuild schemes that involve the loss of social rented homes.
Secker contends that the cabinet paper recommendations make only a “vague commitment” to replacing council homes demolished by the same number at council rents compared with that set out in the Northolt consultation, and that this indicates that the council is going back on its initial promise. He has also criticised the advice tenants and leaseholders were given for filling out the consultation forms, saying a conflict of interest was involved.
The decision over sanctioning the demolitions has been the first big test for the Labour administration elected in May, which, unlike its Labour predecessor, is dominated by admirers of Jeremy Corbyn and led by members of Momentum, the campaign group formed to support his leadership of the Labour Party – hence the nickname “Corbyn Council”.
The effective takeover of the council by Corbynites was enabled by the success of Momentum members in Haringey and allies from Far Left and other political groupings in mobilising branch members against the previous administration’s plans to form a joint venture company – the Haringey Development Vehicle or HDV – with commercial property giant Lendlease, which would have redeveloped council-owned property, including Broadwater Farm as a whole, with a view to greatly increasing new housing supply. Opposition to the HDV led to many sitting councillors being deselected or standing down, followed by the formation of the very different Haringey Labour Group after the borough elections on 3 May.
Residents of Tangmere, which was judged to be at particular risk because of its large panel system construction, have already been offered alternative accommodation. There was a risk identified of the block progressively collapsing if gas pipes or bottles in the building exploded. An initial deadline for moving Tangmere residents out by the end of October was extended to 15 November. An exact date for the rehousing of Northholt residents is to be determined.
All Tangmere and Northolt residents are being guaranteed a right to return to a new, replacement home on the estate when they are built. On London understands that the council intends to hold a ballot of all Broadwater Farm residents about its rebuilding plans after the decision to demolish the two blocks has been taken. The Labour manifesto pledged to deliver 1,000 new council homes by 2022. Mayor Khan recently awarded the borough nearly £63 million of funding towards building its own homes.
Broadwater Farm is located in Haringey’s West Green ward where a by-election is to be held due to the resignation of Ishmael Osamor as one of its councillors, following publicity surrounding his conviction for possession of £2,500 of Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply.
Updated on 8 November 2018.