Haringey’s Labour-led “Corbyn Council” is to ask London Mayor Sadiq Khan to be allowed to demolish and rebuild two housing blocks on Tottenham’s Broadwater Farm estate that have been found to be unsafe without first securing the backing of their residents through a ballot.
The council’s intentions emerged following a regular meeting between residents’ representatives and the council’s arms length management organisation Homes for Haringey last week. Correspondence seen by On London substantiates the residents’ association’s account, which the council has not denied.
Last week, it was announced that Mayor Khan has allocated Haringey nearly £63 million in grant funding as a part of his Affordable Homes Programme dedicated to helping the capital’s councils build more new homes themselves. However, where such funding is to be used for projects which initially involve the demolition of existing social housing, councils (or other landlords) must demonstrate to the Mayor that they have secured support for their proposals through a ballot.
Broadwater Farm Residents’ Association secretary Jacob Secker has described the apparent exemption move as “an outrageous breach of basic democratic principles” at odds with promises made by Labour in advance of May’s borough elections, which saw a new Labour administration formed from a group of councillors dominated by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Labour’s 2018 manifesto said:
Where we have to regenerate parts of the borough, we will bring residents with us, balloting tenants and leaseholders on development proposals affecting them. Secure tenants will be guaranteed the right to return because regeneration must be for the many, not the few.
A number of sitting Labour councillors had stood down or been de-selected as a result of a campaign led by Corbyn supporters against the previous Labour administration’s plan to form a joint venture company with property giant Lendlease, which envisaged the redevelopment of council property, including Broadwater Farm as a whole. Both the new council leader Joseph Ejiofor and its deputy leader Emine Ibrahim are members of national bodies of Momentum, the campaign group formed to back Corbyn’s leadership of Labour. Ibrahim is also Haringey’s cabinet member for housing and estate renewal and has responsibility for Broadwater Farm resident engagement.
Mayor Khan adopted his policy on residents’ ballots having initially rejected it as part of his guidance on best practice for housing estate regenerations. His change of stance was seen by many as a response to high profile local campaigns against such schemes often supported by members of Momentum and activists from other parties and Far Left groups.
Possible exemptions to the residents’ ballot requirement listed in the relevant section of the Greater London Authority’s Capital Funding guide include, “Where demolition is necessary as a result of resident safety issues that cannot reasonably be resolved through other means.” (see section 8.6.6). The GLA will only consider applying this type of exemption if independent specialists have verified the safety concerns.
In June, the council’s cabinet decided that the demolition and replacement of the two housing blocks, Tangmere and Northolt, was its “preferred option” rather than attempting to strengthen and otherwise address the danger of gas explosions that had been discovered. However, Secker argues that “there are no good grounds for exemption from a ballot in this case”. A 28-day consultation of residents by the council has been completed, but Secker says this is “no substitute for a ballot”.
Both Ejiofor and Ibrahim have pledged that should Tangmere and Northholt be demolished they would commit to providing at least the same number of council homes on the sites at council rent levels. On London understands that should the council decide to go ahead with demolishing one or both of the blocks it intends to hold a ballot of all Broadwater Farm residents about its rebuilding plans and its tenure offer to those affected by them.
Updated at 19:10.