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Barrister tells High Court judge Haringey’s £2bn HDV regen plan will have ‘unprecedented’ impact

PUBLISHED: 23:36 25 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:07 26 October 2017

A High Court judge was urged to quash Haringey Council's cabinet decision to set up the Haringey Development Vehicle at the end of a two day review at the Royal Courts of Justice. Picture: JON KING

A High Court judge was urged to quash Haringey Council's cabinet decision to set up the Haringey Development Vehicle at the end of a two day review at the Royal Courts of Justice. Picture: JON KING

Archant

Haringey Council’s decision to press ahead with a £2billion borough-wide renewal scheme “will have an impact on an unprecendented scale”, a court heard today.

Commenting before the hearing, Gordon Peters said: I am not opposed to the aims of improving the areas economy and social housing stock. On the contrary, this is precisely why I am exercised to want to ensure these aims are achieved at the least financial risk, with the greatest protection for social housing and involvement of residents, so whatever happens is done in their name. Picture: JON KINGCommenting before the hearing, Gordon Peters said: I am not opposed to the aims of improving the areas economy and social housing stock. On the contrary, this is precisely why I am exercised to want to ensure these aims are achieved at the least financial risk, with the greatest protection for social housing and involvement of residents, so whatever happens is done in their name. Picture: JON KING

Barrister David Wolfe QC was speaking at a High Court review into whether the council’s plan to pour its land and property into a joint venture, the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), with private developer Lendlease is legal.

Campaigners claim the deal is a sell-off which would result in council tenants and lease holders being forced out of their homes. The council states the deal will bring much needed jobs and better housing.

A packed courtroom listened as Mr Wolfe, acting for claimant Gordon Peters of the Stop the HDV campaign group, shared a number of concerns with High Court judge Mr Justice Duncan Ouseley.

“The claimant and others are particularly concerned about the process the council has followed. They are very concerned the council is taking a once in a generation decision without proper consultation and without redress to full council. There is a lack of accountability and democratic process,” Mr Wolfe said.

The first detailed concern was on whether it was lawful for Haringey to set up the HDV as a limited liability partnership, LLP, (a type of business where one partner cannot be held responsible for the misconduct of another) rather than as a company.

The second focused on whether the law required the council to consult the public before deciding to give the scheme a green light.

The third was about whether the council failed in its duty to assess the HDV’s impact on vulnerable people, including the elderly and minorities.

The last centred on whether or not the decision to pursue the HDV should have been taken by all Haringey’s councillors and not just a “select few” cabinet members.

About 60 people filled court 76’s public gallery at the Royal Courts of Justice after the number who wanted to attend took staff by surprise forcing them to move the hearing to a bigger courtroom.

During the four and a half hour hearing, Mr Wolfe argued the council could only do things for commercial reasons through a company. A claim the council disputes saying such a requirement doesn’t apply because Haringey is not looking to make a profit out of the HDV.

But in a court document Mr Peters states a HDV member’s agreement requires the scheme to generate a “commercially acceptable return” from its activities suggesting “cabinet members were misled” when told the HDV’s aims “are non-commercial” before deciding in its favour in July.

Mr Wolfe said under the HDV residents and lease holders would be moved from a council landlord bound by the Human Rights Act to one that is not.

He added the council has to consider how to prevent discrimination, advance equal opportunities and encourage a sense of community, whereas the HDV would not.

When Mr Justice Ouseley pressed Mr Wolfe to explain his claimant’s concerns over how the HDV would be managed, the barrister explained how if something went wrong in a council tenant’s home he or she could contact their ward councillor who might then get in touch with a Haringey officer who could help.

“Once this goes to an HDV that is imperilled. The extent to which it is imperilled depends on [how the HDV is governed],” he added.

Acting for Haringey Nigel Giffin QC began by arguing a local authority can invest its money for any “relevant” financial purpose.

“One way of looking at what is happening is one type of income producing asset, namely land, is being turned into another, namely an equity share. A classic investment exercise,” Mr Giffin said.

“The key thing happening here is the council will be disposing of land from its sole ownership into a, commercially speaking, joint ownership and, legally speaking, the LLP of which it is a member,” he added.

The hearing continues.

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