Clash over revamp of Haringey's West Indian Cultural Centre
- Credit: Paul Simon Magic Homes
A local developer has unveiled proposals to transform Haringey's West Indian Cultural Centre (WICC) and help renew the borough's “nucleus of Windrush activism”.
However, the council has its owns plans to rebuild the community centre and maximise housing in Clarendon Road, Hornsey.
Originally built as a place for those in the African Caribbean community to meet, the WICC became a hub for black activism and played host to famous figures including Al Sharpton and Sir Derek Walcott.
Stewart Wellington, 51, grew up in Mount View Road, Stroud Green, to West Indian parents.
He told the Ham&High: "We had reason to attend the centre it helped form the bonds of the community back then. But the centre looks a far cry away from what it looked in the past. Its dated and has faced 30 years of council neglect.”
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He blames Haringey Council - the freeholder - for failing to look after the building.
“These buildings looked great but were built at a low cost in the late 70s and 80s and they haven’t lasted. Instead of waiting endlessly for the council we are actively ready to undertake the areas redevelopment,” he told this newspaper.
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Stewart has partnered with Paul Simon Magic Homes to put together plans for redevelopment - which will see the provision of a new centre and 85 homes.
Of these 85, 16 would be for affordable rent, with 13 available for shared ownership.
Stewart already owns 30-36 Clarendon Road and has the backing of the trustees who have a 125-year lease on the WICC.
“We’re in a good place, we have the money, and the project is readily funded but we’re yet to send off our formal planning application as the council are stood in our way," he said.
The developer said a scheme could take just 23 months to complete if planning permission was granted, and would back a name change for the centre to the African Caribbean Cultural Centre.
But while the council admits the shortcomings of the current building, it wants to bring forward its own redevelopment scheme.
Stewart said the town hall is unwilling to see the next door Clarendon Recovery College as part of the scheme, and that this was a sticking point.
He said: “We want to have a grown-up negotiation with the council and get the ball rolling. Our promise is to redevelop the whole area including the Recovery College, so in my eyes it would benefit the council.
"On a less commercially focused basis however, the project is also about future-proofing our own cultural heritage. The development needs to be organic for the community.”
The plans, he said, would also see the need for repairs to the current building, costing £250,000, disappear.
A council spokesperson said: “Haringey Council’s commitment to support a vibrant community centre that meets the needs of our African Caribbean residents should not be doubted. That is why the WICC have this building on such a long lease.
“We recognise the shortcomings in the current building and that is why we want to bring forward the overall scheme as quickly as possible whilst developing appropriate plans in partnership with community leaders and making best use of public assets to serve our local community.
“The council is committed to delivering our own housing programme and our plans will lead to more council homes and a sustainable community centre for the 21st century.”
The need for a redeveloped WICC is highlighted by those who sit on the West Indian Leadership Council.
Hugh Francis, a member of the group, said: “There’s currently a disconnect between the current generation and what they know about the activism of the Windrush generation – this is because of the loss of common space.”
Jessie Stevens MBE, a member of the WICC and once on the police liaison committee, said: “It would mean everything to see the next generation inherit our work in the form of a new building.”