London council defends demolition plan for ‘unsafe’ towers

Stakes raised in stand-off seen as a test of Mayoral commitment to tenant ballots.

Broadwater Farm

London council has defended its approach to the demolition of two ‘unsafe’ tower blocks in a stand-off seen as a test of the London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s commitment to tenant ballots over regeneration.

Taking issue with reported claim made by campaigners against the demolition plans, the Haringey Council says it has made “a number of clear commitments” to those affected on the Broadwater Farm estate, including a guaranteed right of return.

Also included among these commitments are:

  • All the council homes that are demolished will be replaced with at least the same number of new council homes at council rents on the estate
  • A ballot of all Broadwater Farm residents on the council’s proposals for rebuilding, and the offer to residents associated with those proposals

In a statement, a spokesperson said: “We have also been clear throughout that we are 100% committed to building at least the same number of council homes at council rents on the estate.

“Our position on this has never changed, 91% of Tangmere and 81% of Northolt residents who responded to the consultation agreed with the proposals to demolish their block and rebuild homes on the estate.

“This is a health and safety issue and the safety of our residents will always be our top priority.

“Once we have proposals for the new homes on the estate, we will hold a ballot of all Broadwater Farm residents on these, including those former tenants of Tangmere and Northolt who have relocated as a result of the issues discovered.”

To the council, claims from campaigners of private tenant families faced being evicted into single rooms in hostel accommodation are “entirely inaccurate”.

With demolition voted through, campaigners were said to be pinning their hopes on official complaint about the council’s ‘Independent tenant and leaseholder advisor’ (ITLA) who, campaigners claim, promoted the demolition agenda as they helped residents to fill out the consultation forms.

The council says such a complaint is still to be received, with the ITLA refuting the allegation.

Also denied is a claim cabinet “backed down” on dilution of promises for the 100% replacement of council rent homes in the two blocks set for demolition and retreat from the right of tenants at one block to get a proper choice of new home.

“There was no “dilution” – from day one the commitment has been that there would be at least the same number of council homes rebuilt, at council rent.

There was also no retreat from the right of tenants at one block to get a proper choice of new home, Northolt tenants were offered a choice of home from the start – we have now said they will also be offered a second choice, should they not like their first move,” the spokesperson said.

On the ballot, the council cites GLA guidance as “explicitly recognising” situations that are exempt from ballot requirements and, at Broadwater Farm, the proposal to demolish arose from health and safety risks which have recently been identified.

The council maintains that, irrespective of any exemption granted by the GLA, it is committed to holding a ballot cross the whole estate as part of the engagement on the next phase of work – developing proposals for the new homes on the estate.

“Due to the safety issues, we believe a ballot was not appropriate. As such we have applied to the GLA for an exemption – residents were told this was the council’s intention, including at a public meeting,” the spokesperson said.

Demolition was the preferred option put to cabinet after detailed assessment of the blocks by structural engineers with the option set against strengthening costs estimated at £33.5m.

Picture by Iridescenti

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