Haringey council leader faces down contempt allegations over redevelopment plan

Haringey leader Claire Kober has responded to allegations the council has treated residents with con

Haringey leader Claire Kober has responded to allegations the council has treated residents with contempt. Picture: John Macdonald-Fulton - Credit: Archant

Haringey Council leader Claire Kober has faced down critics’ allegations residents are treated with contempt.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Ham&High, Cllr Claire Kober said there was a degree of hostility towards politicians following the Grenfell Tower fire.

“The public mood has changed. There’s a community that’s been left behind,” Cllr Kober said.

On the solution, she said “shared understanding” comes from talking to people before confiming that, unlike her Kensington and Chelsea counterpart, she has visited “many” tower blocks.

Cllr Kober said: “I became leader in the most challenging of circumstances. We’ve travelled an enormous way since then. We’ve changed the reputation of the borough. Haringey is transforming.”

One chapter of that transformation is a plan to regenerate sites across the borough by partnering with developer Lendlease, transferring council property to a jointly owned company, Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV).

Since the scheme got cabinet approval on July 3, MPs, Liberal-Democrat councillors and housing campaigners have been calling for a rethink.

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But Cllr Kober said: “My sense is the hostility does not extend to the 3,000 families living in temporary accommodation. For people caught in the teeth of this city’s housing crisis pausing is not the right thing.”

“If we’re going to be a place that houses people within the city rather than pushing people out then we have to build more densely and build more.

“The way you do that is by building on public sector land and that’s never without controversy,” she added.

On why the council decided to embark on the joint venture, described as “the biggest public assets sell off in the country”, Cllr Kober said the council could not do such a huge job alone.

“The scale of the HDV mirrors the scale of the housing crisis,” she said.

Asked whether the pace of the HDV process was related to Tottenham Hotspurs’ new ground, due to open in August 2018, Cllr Kober said: “The HDV and the refurbishment of the Northumberland Estate doesn’t have any direct link to Spurs at all.”

On the risk of Lendlease reneging on commitments to ensure 40 per cent of new homes are affordable, the council leader said there were “mechanisms” in place which would prevent new builds getting planning permission if they didn’t include such a pledge.

Cllr Kober welcomed plans to transform Hornsey Town Hall, saying; “We’re getting to the end of a long and pretty difficult journey.

“The plans we’ve seen should secure the restoration, provide the arts offer people want and ensure the town hall contributes to the area’s success.

“The first priority is the restoration. We’re not going to get huge numbers of affordable housing because this is not a housing scheme.”

And on why the public would not be consulted on a proposal to relocate Highgate Library in Shepherd’s Hill to the Jacksons Lane arts venue, Cllr Kober said there was no legal requirement, but “when and if” a study concludes the move is feasible there would be a “very clear conversation” with the public.

Asked why the library couldn’t be withdrawn from the plan after the council committed itself to match fund an Arts Council grant to upgrade Jacksons Lane, Cllr Kober said the money was no longer contingent on the library moving to Jacksons Lane, but she said there were many people who see the benefit of the proposal.

“The co-location could be good for everyone. If the feasibility study says it’s not feasible we won’t run with it. It’s an idea that’s being tested out.”