Demolition protest tests tenant consultation over London regeneration

Campaigners rally to contest council plans for two ‘unsafe’ blocks and the future for those who call them home.

Broadwater Farm

Tenant consultation over regeneration in London is tested by a stand-off over demolition plans for blocks branded as unsafe.

Haringey Council’s cabinet is this evening (Oct 13) set to decide to demolish two blocks in need of safety works on the Broadwater Farm estate.

The stand-off is seen as a test of tenant consultation over London’s regeneration plans.

Campaigners claim the demolition is being proposed without any masterplan for alternative housing while senior council officers formulate a ‘ribbon of redevelopment’ across the estate.

The Council has applied for ballot exemption from the GLA, despite promising resident ballots on all demolition proposals in the Haringey Labour election manifesto for the elections this May.

Paul Burnham, Secretary, Haringey Defend Council Housing, said Broadwater Farm residents would take a deputation to the cabinet meeting.

“We say, this Council must keep its Election Manifesto promise by holding a ballot on demolition proposals at Broadwater Farm.

70 residents of the affected blocks signed a petition calling for a ballot on demolition or strengthening; while only 108 residents took part in the Council’s consultation,” he said.

The campaigners claim consultation promises on rehousing and replacement homes are being diluted and even evaded by the Council.

Pledges on 100% replacement of council rent homes in the two blocks in the consultation with residents have been dropped from the cabinet papers.

Tenants from Northolt may not get a proper choice of new home, as promised – although the Council may this evening restore its promise on this,” said Burnham.

Also claimed is that the Council’s ‘Independent tenant and leaseholder advisor’ (ITLA)  promoted the demolition agenda as they helped residents to fill out the consultation forms.

“ITLAs are supposed to be independent and serve residents, not landlords,” said Burnham, outlining grounds for an ‘official complaint’.

The ‘ribbon of redevelopment’ across Broadwater Farm is seen as a means for ongoing pressure for further demolitions, and for unaffordable homes to be built on council land.

As reported by 24housing, at meeting in June, the council’s cabinet made a number of decisions relating to the Tangmere and Northolt blocks on the estate in response to both blocks failing key structural tests.

This included the decisions to consult the residents of Tangmere and Northolt on the Council’s preferred option to demolish the blocks and replace them with new council homes built on the estate.

It also agreed to consult on a Rehousing and Payments Policy and Local Lettings Policy, because residents need to be rehoused from both blocks – at least temporarily – as all options to address the structural issues required each building to be emptied.

In relation to the Tangmere consultation, the council cites 91% of Tangmere residents who responded as agreeing with the Council’s demolish/rebuild plan.

So tonight, cabinet will be recommended to back the demolition of Tangmere.

As for Northolt, the council cites an 81% response rate as support for a recommendation to demolish the block and rebuild on the estate.

That month, Cabinet also decided to start the rehousing of Tangmere residents, due to the fact that this block has failed both the tests relating to Large Panel System (LPS) buildings – which means there is a risk of progressive collapse from an explosion caused by piped gas or from an explosion from a lower impact event, such as a bottled gas explosion.

This decision was taken because piped gas to the block was due to be turned off by the end of October 2018, and a decision on whether to strengthen or demolish Tangmere cannot be made until after consultation.

The council maintains all tenants of Tangmere have now been offered suitable alternative accommodation,

While the Council has also been working with resident leaseholders and private tenants to help them find alternative accommodation, in mid-October the Council agreed with Cadent an extension to the deadline for Tangmere to Thursday this week. (Nov 15).

The report to cabinet tonight recommends that the rehousing of Northolt commences shortly after November Cabinet – with the exact date to be determined by the borough’s Director of Housing, Regeneration and Planning.

It also pitches a final proposed Rehousing and Payments Policy following consultation which sets out how residents will be rehoused from Northolt, and also the commitments the Council will make to residents of both blocks.

This includes right of return to the estate on the same terms and conditions, including to new homes on the estate when they are built.

If Cabinet agrees that one or both of Tangmere and Northolt should be demolished, a number of further actions will need to be taken to facilitate vacant possession of the buildings ahead of demolition, and to allow more detailed work to commence on the proposals for new homes on the estate.

To the council, doing nothing is not an option, as both blocks have failed structural tests.

And though the risks posed by the structural defects have been mitigated, the blocks cannot remain occupied long-term as they are, the council says.

Retrospective works require the joints where walls, floors and ceilings meet to be strengthened with windows removed to allow the strengthening materials to be fitted.

Cabinet papers estimate the cost of these works to Tangmere at £13m and Northolt at £12.5m – and work cannot be done while the residents remain in occupation.

Haringey’s current Labour administration was elected in May this year on a manifesto on housing commitments including the delivery of 1,000 council homes for families on the Council’s waiting list and bringing 95% of council homes up to decent homes standard.

The Council is currently consulting on a new draft Borough Plan and the setting up of Wholly Owned Company to help hit housebuilding targets.

Picture by Iridescenti