Embattled Haringey Council leader Joseph Ejiofor has hit back at critics of council-backed plans to redevelop the Wards Corner site in south Tottenham.
In a lengthy statement published on the council website, Ejiofor, who sits on Momentum’s national coordinating group, hits out at “myths and falsehoods” about threats to the “Latin Village” indoor market currently occupying part of the site, and warns that pulling out of the scheme would cost the council at least £19 million – “vital funds” that would be taken away from council services.
The scheme dates back to 2004, when Haringey appointed build to rent specialists Grainger as development partners for the site, occupied until the 1970s by Wards department store, and then left disused until the indoor market began to be established around 2000.
While the run-down site has become the focus for sustained campaigning, development plans have been inching forward. Despite legal challenges, planning permission was granted in 2012 and compulsory purchase orders granted last year for the parts of the site not owned by Haringey or Transport for London, which already owns the section of the site occupied by the market, which lies above Seven Sisters Underground station.
The development would see 196 new homes – to rent, not “luxury flats”, according to Grainger – 290 jobs created, new retail space and a new indoor market with all current licensed traders offered a space there. During construction the traders would be moved to new temporary location within Grainger’s sister development Apex House, which stands directly across the road from the Wards building.
Tottenham MP David Lammy used an adjournment debate in the House of Commons last week to rail against “gentrification” and “culture bulldozed and replaced by clone high streets”, condemning the council for rejecting scrutiny committee calls to explore a “full or partial buy-out” of the site, but Ejiofor is standing by the development.
“Grainger would expect to recoup at least £19 million they have already spent, and we would still not own the land,” he said. “As a council, we always have to balance competing priorities for diminishing resources and funds.”
TfL has a binding contractual agreement to sell its portion of the land to Grainger, he added, while proponents of an alternative “community plan” to preserve and restore the site had “provided no clear explanation of how they propose to pay for the extended life of the building or acquire the site”, which TfL had concluded had gone “beyond its economic life”.
“We in the council have done everything in our power to guarantee the successful future of Seven Sisters market in a sustainable and collaborative way,” Ejiofor continued. “The market is not simply being demolished, it will have a stable lasting future, and there will always be a Latin Village market in Seven Sisters during the rebuilding.”
Negotiations had achieved guarantees on capped and discounted rents, committing Grainger to “not raising rents to a level that would push traders out of the market in the future”, and many of the traders were “positive” about the plans, he said.
“Nobody can look at what is there and believe that this should be the future for the next 20 years. Haringey Council must deliver better for residents, better for businesses and better for traders – an energetic town centre, new homes, new jobs and opportunities and a Latin Village Market renowned across Europe.”
Ejiofor became the figurehead for what was dubbed the first “Corbyn council” when he took over in 2018 following a successful activist campaign to force out Labour councillors who supported plans for a major regeneration programme in the borough, but could now become the Haringey leader to finally push this long-running project through.
Photograph: Haringey Council.
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