Haringey’s HDV regeneration plans have been blighted by opposition campaigns and bitter disagreements. LGC’s sister title Construction News examines the factors behind the controversy and the consequences for projects across the UK.
It has claimed the scalp of Haringey LBC leader Claire Kober (Lab), sparked a legal fight in the High Court and led to a media frenzy over claims of a “hard-left insurgency” in north London – and all without a wrecking ball in sight.
Haringey council’s and Lendlease’s controversial £2bn joint venture, Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), had aimed to put the borough at the forefront of regeneration in the capital.
Haringey’s plans would see a large number of the council’s assets, including libraries, housing and a civic centre, placed into what many local residents considered a commercial company.
Proposals for phase one of the development are focused on the massive regeneration potential in Wood Green and Tottenham, delivering more than 6,000 homes and a new town centre.
However, amid the insults, incriminations and legal battle that has broken out in opposition to the project, has Haringey exposed the tensions underlying Britain’s broken housing system?
The case for regeneration
The vast estates of London and other UK cities have long been viewed by politicians as a source of the many anti-social issues that act as a drain on the public purse.
In 2016 the former prime minister David Cameron said that so-called “sink estates” had led to a rise in gangs and anti-social behaviour. “In the worst estates, you’re confronted by concrete slabs dropped from on high, brutal high-rise towers and dark alleyways that are a gift to criminals and drug dealers,” Mr Cameron said in an article for the Sunday Times.
For successive governments and local authorities, the attraction of estate regeneration as a source of new homes is clear. Developers have access to funds and expertise while councils, especially in London, have swathes of high-value land and an acute housing need.
Many of London’s post-war estates were also built during a time when the capital’s population was in decline. As a result, the estates themselves often tend to be less dense than surrounding streets and are capable – in theory – of supporting many more homes.
One industry expert who has worked in Haringey told CN: “Every resident I’ve met who lives on Haringey’s Northumberland Park estate is keen for something to happen and eager to get on with it. No doubt there are others who disagree, but it does need some pretty serious improvements.”
Haringey’s HDV would see a 50:50 limited liability partnership between Lendlease and Haringey deliver 6,400 new homes, create 20,000 jobs and invest £275m in affordable housing or other services.
The HDV will initially transfer over properties such as the council offices, the civic centre, a care home and a library. However, the jewels in the regeneration plans are the 1,300-home Northumberland Park estate and the 1,000-home Broadwater Farm.
Top down accusations
Last October, local Haringey resident and retired social services director Gordon Peters took Haringey LBC to the High Court as part of the StopHDV campaign.
The group sought a judicial review on the terms of the HDV, arguing that the regeneration plan was a commercial venture and had failed to consult residents appropriately.
Although the High Court ruled in the HDV’s favour, Haringey council’s cabinet member for housing, regeneration and planning Alan Strickland (Lab), who spearheaded the vehicle, was deselected in November. He will step down from the council along with Cllr Kober in May 2018.
The campaign has also appealed the High Court decision, leaving the HDV in limbo.
Mr Peters says a frustration over the lack of transparency is at the heart of the campaign’s challenge. “The fundamental thing about the HDV is there has [been] no attempt to talk with people on the larger estates on what they would actually like,” he explains.
“It is very top down. There is one singular, large-scale approach and that is it. Some people knew nothing until they found a red line in plans around their house meaning it was scheduled for demolition. We still don’t have a viability assessment showing where the money from the HDV will go.”
In October last year, Haringey did announce a guaranteed right of return for residents and, most importantly, agreed a commitment to tenants that the right of return will be on equivalent social rents and the same tenancy terms if their homes are demolished.
However, according to Mr Peters, the replacement homes for the residents of the 1,300-home Northumberland Park estate have still not been announced. “The exact number of council tenancies and housing association [social rent] homes to be lost – or replaced for that matter – is nowhere given and that is a very big lacuna in the plans,” he says.
Other local authorities have kept a keen eye on Haringey’s HDV dilemma. Last August, Camden LBC ruled out pressing ahead with a HDV-style joint venture proposal and will instead use a community-led scheme for its investment programme.
The council cited economic uncertainty and the fact that results from large JVs “in other areas” had been mixed. Camden also said in its September 2016 community investment programme update: “Large multi-site joint venture’s may prioritise more attractive sites for development, with the more challenging sites being pushed back.”
Who is it for, really?
It is not only estate regeneration that can spark local opposition.
In an age when homeownership by 25-34-year-olds has halved since 1996 in the South-east, the fact that up to 15,000 high-end flats remain unsold in London has fed the perception that new-build housing isn’t for everybody.
“The instinctive reaction of most people in most places now, is ‘This development won’t be for people like me’,” says Nicholas Boys-Smith, director of social enterprise Create Streets and former member of the government’s expert panel on estate regeneration.
“The ‘social contract’ of development in London needs to be fixed. When a high-rise pile of perceived safe deposit boxes has crashed into a human-scale neighbourhood and been left lying partly empty, you can see why that narks people off.”
Changes in the political make-up of many London councils in the past few years has also seen schemes hit the buffers, with new administrations unafraid to renegotiate deals or claw back public land.
In January this year the leader of Hammersmith & Fulham LBC Stephen Cowan (Lab) said developer Capco’s £1.1bn Earls Court project was essentially “undeliverable” in its current form.
Mr Cowan went further. In what was described by one industry commentator as “open warfare” between the public authority and developer, the council leader demanded that part of the 8.5 ha site, which was sold by the previous administration for £110m in 2012, be returned to local government control.
That same month, Southwark LBC’s planning committee voted narrowly against the latest phase of the mammoth Elephant & Castle redevelopment, turning down proposals by Delancey for 979 homes as well as an overhaul of the shopping centre. The proposals included only 33 homes (or 3%) at ‘social rent equivalent’; the council’s own minimum guidelines for social housing provision is 17.5%.
‘People know what regeneration means’
The roots of the current surge in activism, however, can be traced back to the beginning of the New Labour government.
Hours after his election victory in 1997, Tony Blair visited the Aylesbury estate in south London to deliver a speech on social exclusion and the “forgotten people”.
The estate, and nearby Heygate Estate, had become a symbol of urban decay and Mr Blair’s intervention sparked a vast redevelopment. However, the regeneration promises have fallen short. Of the 2,154 social homes on the estate, only 79 were rebuilt on the same terms.
“Clearly where landlords such as councils own big estates with high land value that are not earning their keep, as in low density, it is incumbent on them to provide more homes,” says Colin Wiles, housing consultant and member of campaign group Social Housing Under Threat (Shout), which was formed in 2014.
He continues: “However, some councils are doing this as a short-term policy which is cross-subsidising the lack of government grant for councils. And developers are taking the piss in all honesty by maximising the amount of market-sale homes and planning.
“All over London, homes are acting as safety deposit boxes for foreign buyers and that has worked against communities. People are aware what the difference between market, affordable and real social rent is.”
Mr Wiles said Lendlease had benefited at Heygate from what he alleged was “weak planning and weak councils”.
George Turner was the Liberal Democrat candidate for Lambeth at the 2017 general election, and in 2014 he campaigned against Braeburn Estates’ plans to develop the £1.2bn Shell Centre scheme on the Southbank. He says the difference between now and a decade ago is a shift in public understanding of what regeneration means.
“The public are much wiser to regeneration now and looking at Haringey, the HDV seems inextricably linked to what happened at Elephant & Castle,” Mr Turner said.
“If you live on an estate and have a leasehold property you bought under right-to-buy, you would be terrified at seeing your flat CPO-ed at below market value. In west Hendon there was one 80-year-old lady who was being offered a derisory amount for her home under CPO and was in no position to get a mortgage, so the fear is real.
“This is not about people being selfish, they are justifiably very worried.”
Create Streets’ Nicholas Boys-Smith adds: “By taking an approach of cramming as much density as possible, not giving a clear right to return on the same terms to residents, and by being too scared to take a true co-design approach, many councils and registered social landlords have made their lives massively harder than they should have been.”
Social media power shift
One difference between 2007 and 2017 is the rise of social media. Armed with little more than an iPad, local campaigns are now capable of engaging thousands of people and influencing national agendas.
As a result of the interest the StopHDV campaign has drawn, communities across the country with concerns about regeneration plans are looking towards its campaigners for guidance. “I took calls yesterday from Edinburgh and Brighton from people who have similar issues and had been following what has happened in Haringey,” Mr Peters said.
David Donoghue led the More Light More Power campaign to halt Hammerson and Ballymore’s £800m Bishopsgate Goodsyard development in Shoreditch, east London. He says that relations between the community and developer first soured when local people felt their voice had not been heard.
“In Shoreditch, we were keen to work together to get the Goodsyard right; however, we were three-quarters through a first-class consultation with the developer when we read in the paper that Hammerson had decided to submit plans which bore no relation to what had been discussed,” Mr Donoghue recalls. “People resented the fact that they had given up time to attend early morning or evening meetings to go to a consultation, and their views were ignored.
“Developers in the past could outspend opponents on sharp lawyers, tricky planning consultants, printing leafleting etc. These days there is a shift in power to media-savvy people who can distribute – for free – endless campaign material, or quickly raise thousands of signatures on petitions that in the old days would have taken days of door-knocking.”
He adds: “Most of the people who engaged in our campaign in Shoreditch were architects or retired planners or people in banking and finance. They weren’t anti-capitalists.”
Haringey changes playing field
London mayor Sadiq Khan has also begun to tighten the criteria for estate regeneration, launching a consultation on a new good practice guide that is expected to increase affordable housing provision and bring in stronger protections for tenants and leaseholders.
The guide comes after Mr Khan blasted Wandsworth LBC for “waving through” amendments to section 106 agreements submitted by Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC) last year for its £9bn scheme.
The amendment aimed to cut the number of affordable homes from 636 to 386 – a 40 per cent reduction on the original planning commitment. Mr Khan slammed the changes as “wholly unacceptable”, but was powerless to intervene.
Rebecca Lury is Labour councillor for east Walworth at Southwark LBC. She was one of 14 councillors who signed an open letter on 12 January opposing the Delancey scheme in Elephant and Castle.
Ms Lury says viability assessments have been used as a tool to reduce the social element of schemes. “I think it depends on the developer, but viability assessments make it very difficult for any council to call for more social housing, especially as part of developments.
“We have robust local plans that set out what we would like to see, but whether that is achievable alongside other frameworks definitely needs discussion. I think it is about the developers needing to work more closely with the community, and engage them throughout the planning process.”
Delancey has subsequently resubmitted its application to include 116 homes at social rent.
The mayor also announced that any regeneration project which hopes to receive funding from the Greater London Authority will need to hold an estate ballot on their proposals. The move has been criticised by the head of the G15 group of leading London housing associations Paul Hackett, who said it would have a “significant” effect on his members plans.
Housing consultant Mr Wiles is similarly unconvinced estate ballots are the answer. “The issue with ballots is that they are a snapshot in time and opinions change, usually in a negative way. But it also doesn’t take on the views of homeless people or those on waiting lists,” he says.
“Councils and housing associations need to explain to residents, ‘Yes you come first, but can we also think about your sons, daughters, the borough and wider community’.”
The churn of development in London isn’t going to die down due to the fallout from Haringey. But the controversy represents a potential turning point in how London’s vast estates are approached in the future.
Developers looking to buy into the capital’s opportunity areas may find they have to tread more carefully in future.