Demolishing the arguments

Broadwater Farm residents demand an estate ballot

Credit: Stephen Furner

Tangmere House (Credit: Stephen Furner)

By Luchia Robinson

Residents of the Broadwater Farm Estate are protesting against Haringey Council’s application to The Greater London Authority for an exemption from the balloting condition outlined in the Mayor of London’s policy on estate regeneration.

This is in regards to the Tangmere and Northolt sites on the Broadwater Farm Estate, which both face demolition after being deemed unsafe because of their Large Panel System (LPS) structural designs.

The GLA states that Investment Partner’s (in this case, Haringey Council) seeking funding to demolish and re-build social homes, must appoint an independent body to undertake a ballot for residents to determine whether the proposed demolition should go ahead.

The ballot ‘should be the culmination of a period of resident consultation, engagement, and negotiation,’offering eligible residents the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as to the future of the estate. However, exemptions to the resident ballot requirement can be made, particularly if it is stated that demolition is required on the grounds of resident safety that cannot be resolved reasonably through other means.

Haringey Council and representatives of Homes for Haringey told residents of the Broadwater Farm Estate, at a meeting held in August, that they would be consulted on whether the Northolt and Tangmere sites should be demolished and rebuilt. Residents were not offered the option of addressing whether the blocks should be strengthened rather than demolished.

Jacob Secker, Secretary Broad- water Farm Residents’ Association believes that the sole option of demolition does not give residents a real choice as to what happens to their homes. He says that strengthening the blocks is an adequate alternative to demolition.

A Structural Robustness Assessment of Tangmere House, provided by Ridge Property & Construction Consultants suggests:

‘In conjunction with the removal of the gas supply we would recommend that strengthening design options are considered in order to comply with the LPS (Land & Property Services) Criteria as part of a full options study.’

Haringey Council believes demolition to be the preferred option as it guarantees all safety risks are removed entirely rather than reduced.

The council estimates the cost of strengthening the Tangmere block would be £13m and it puts the improvement works to the Northolt site at £12.5m. With other necessary works taken into account, Haringey council estimates the total improvement works to be £33.5 million. As a result of the scale and costings, the council has concluded that “the strengthening works that would be needed to make the blocks safe were prohibitively expensive.”

Credit: Stephen Furner

Northolt Tower (Credit: Stephen Furner)

A 28-day, Section 105 consultation that addressed the matter of strengthening the blocks as opposed to demolishing them, began in September and ended in October.

Residents were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the council’s proposal to demolish and rebuild the Tangmere and Northolt blocks on the estate. They were also asked whether they were unsure of the council’s proposal or if they supported any other options. Jacob Secker said: “The 28-day consultation on demolition […] is no substitute for a ballot. It did not contain a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. Residents were not shown a plan of what the Council is planning to build on the site. In all other cases of proposed demolition, masterplans showing what the estate will look like after rebuilding are shared with the residents before the decision is made. This has not been done with Broadwater Farm residents.”

The result of the 28-day consultation was taken to Cabinet last month and the decision to demolish was decided upon. According to the cabinet report: 91% of Tangmere and 81% of Northolt residents agreed to the demolition and rebuilding of the blocks.

Mr. Secker believes that the Council is going back on its promise to replace all the council homes that are demolished on the estate with at least the same number of new council homes at council rents. He references November’s cabinet report which states that the council has ‘committed to replacing any council homes which are demolished with new council homes on the estate.’

Jacob Secker said: “This is a vague commitment which does not necessarily mean that there will be an equal numbers of council homes at council rents and more family sized accommodation.”

He added: “Too many vague promises to re-provide council housing have been broken too many times before by Local Authorities demolishing council estates.”

According to the Council, as the works are ongoing, residents will be engaged in the determining of the types of designs and numbers of homes, once proposals for the new homes have been developed. They will also be informed of how the homes will be funded and delivered.

A ballot on the council’s proposals for rebuilding and the offer associated with these proposals will be held for all residents of the Broadwater Farm Estate, following the demolition of the Tangmere and Northolt blocks.

Mr. Secker is urging for a pre-demolition ballot to take place and calls for the London Assembly members to disapprove the council’s application for exemption.

Cllr Dawn Barnes, Haringey Liberal Democrat spokesperson on housing, expressed concern: “Offering a ballot but only after the decision to demolish has been made, doesn’t give residents any choice. It says ‘it’s the Council’s way or the high way’.

“As the Council admitted in its report from July, there was another option that satisfied ‘health and safety concerns’, which was strengthening the existing buildings. The choice between that and demolition and rebuild should have been offered to Broadwater Farm residents.”

The Broadwater Farm Rehousing and Payments Policy is being presented to Cabinet for approval. It outlines commitments to the residents of the two blocks which include:guaranteed rights of return to the newly built homes on the estate for all council tenants and leaseholders who need to vacate Northolt and Tangmere. It also proposes equity loans for resident leaseholders who wish to buy a new home within the borough. Cabinet will need to agree the recommendations in the report before more detailed work on the proposals for the new homes can start.