Protesters converge on Wood Green as council agrees £2bn sell off
PUBLISHED: 17:58 04 July 2017 | UPDATED: 17:58 04 July 2017
Hundreds of protesters were locked out of a town hall meeting last night as councillors pushed through plans for the largest sell off of public assets by a local authority.
Demonstrators marched from Turnpike Lane tube station to Haringey Civic Centre in a defiant show of opposition to the sale of council housing, public buildings and land worth £2bn.
The deal was struck in spite of a last-minute plea following the Grenfell Tower fire by Tottehnham’s David Lammy and Hornsey and Wood Green’s Catherine West urging councillors to put plans to sign the legal agreement establishing the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) on hold.
According to the plan, which was approved after a three hour long meeting between councillors, the borough’s public assets will be transferred to the new HDV company owned 50/50 by developers Lendlease and the council.
As councillors met inside, protesters - including some as young as eight or nine – banged on windows shouting “No HDV, no social cleansing” outside with about 10 police and extra security barricading entrances.
Speaking on the civic centre steps, Unite’s Peter Kavanagh said: “Haringey is angry. There’s a mood for change. We must put issues like Grenfell at the absolute core of everyhting our community cares about.
“This country is changing. Why don’t those councillors wake up and smell the coffee?”
Commenting on the deal, Haringey protester Vivek Lehal said: “It is mortgaging our future with no guarantee of success. It’s a risky gamble. It sets a dangerous precedent for all authorities.
“They are not being honest. The council want to wipe the poor out of the borough,” he added, complaining critics only had 5 days to respond to a proposal almost 1,500 pages long.
Haringey Development Vehicle
What is it?
The Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) is the name given to a partnership between the council and private developer Lendlease which would result in having an equal share in Haringey’s land, public buildings and council housing.
Why is the council doing this?
According to Haringey, the HDV allows the council to deliver on a promise to residents to provide new homes and jobs in the face of £160m worth of cuts since 2010.
Why can’t the council do it alone?
Haringey says it doesn’t have the money to pay for council housing which it says will cost billions.
Which properties are affected?
The proposed projects for the first phase are the former Cranwood care home in Muswell Hill, the council’s Civic Centre, Station Road offices and Library in Wood Green, and Northumberland Park.
How long will it last?
The council describes it as a “long-term partnership” lasting for 15 to 20 years.
When will the decision be made?
According to the council a final decision on whether to establish the HDV and on the first phase is expected to be made this summer.
Who are Lendlease?
The company describes itself as “a leading international property and infrastructure group”. It has business interests in Australia, Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Commenting on redevelopment of Northumberland Park under the scheme, Nick Martin-Clark from Haringey Leaseholders Association said: “We’ve seen a lot of anxiety about what’s going to happen to leaseholders.
“Their homes are going to be demolished, but there’s no clarity about what kind of deal they are going to get. Whether they are going to get a fair price or will be able to return to the estate.
“What is clear is they’ve got to involve the community in decision making and not just leave them to pick up the pieces afterwards,” he added.
Reverend Paul Nicolson – who rang a bell “to sound the alarm” in protest – said: “There are feelings of desperation and inferiority and this council is endorsing people’s feelings by demolishing the homes of council tenants.
“They are destroying thriving communities. They are giving a boost to the worst aspects of the UK housing market. This is a big mistake,” the 85-year-old added.
Under the HDV plan, the council promises to build 6,400 homes 40 per cent of which it describes as “affordable” with council tenants given “a guaranteed right of return on equivalent terms”.
Further promises include thousands of jobs, new school facilities, a health centre and the transformation of Wood Green town centre.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Alan Strickland, cabinet member for regeneration and housing, said: “Successful regeneration has to have the best interests of Haringey’s communities at its heart and we’re determined to help more residents live in quality homes in the borough.
“That’s why I’m delighted the cabinet have approved this partnership, which enables us to deliver the new homes, jobs and facilities people have made it clear they want to see.”
But Mr Martin-Clark said: “There’s widespread anger out there about the breaking up of communities and the fact people’s voices are not being heard.”