Row over demolition of tower blocks at Broadwater Farm

Campaigners accuse Haringey Council of ‘gentrifying’ Tottenham estate, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Tangmere House, Broadwater Farm (credit Google)
Tangmere House, Broadwater Farm (credit Google)

Haringey Council has defended its approach to a consultation after campaigners accused it of “bullying” residents to accept the demolition of their homes.

Campaign group Haringey Defend Council Housing criticised the council over a plan to knock down a block of flats at Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, accusing it of “forced gentrification and social cleansing”.

It claimed the council should have offered residents the chance to move away from the block while refurbishment took place – known as a ‘decant’ – and that residents moving into replacement homes would face rent hikes.

Responding to the claims, Ruth Gordon, cabinet member for housebuilding, placemaking and development, said a full decant for the duration of the demolition and rebuilding works was a possible option for residents. While she admitted rents for the new homes would not be the same as current levels, she said the council’s estimates were “substantially below” the numbers quoted by campaigners.

The council revealed plans to knock down the Tangmere and Northolt blocks at Broadwater Farm in 2018, after structural faults were found in the buildings.

The council admitted demolition work was likely to cause “very significant levels of disruption” to the 24 households living in the Stapleford North block, and in July cabinet members agreed to consult residents on whether to retain and refurbish the block or to demolish and replace it. 

But the campaigners claimed this was against best practice and the council’s own policy, which states that residents should have the option of a temporary move away, often with options of a ‘right to remain’ in the new property or to return to the existing property once it has been refurbished.

They said the move forms part of a “strategy of forced gentrification and social cleansing” because they claimed rents for the new homes could be up to 87% higher than at present, amounting to increases of nearly £70 per week. However, Cllr Gordon denied this.

Paul Burnham, from Haringey Defend Council Housing, said: “The council is bullying residents to accept demolition if they want a peaceful life. The consultation options are not fair choices, and they need to add the third option of the block being repaired while residents are temporarily relocated during the works period.” 

Paul claimed there was plenty of support for ‘no demolitions and no rent increases’ when campaigners spoke to residents in July. He added: “Meanwhile, the council must comply with its decant policy, advise tenants on the real amounts of future rents, and abandon the flawed consultation at Stapleford North.”

Explaining the council’s position, Cllr Gordon said: “While the two main options presented are refurbish or demolish and rehouse, we make it clear in the consultation documents that a full decant for the duration of the demolition and rebuilding works is a possible option should residents wish us to consider it.

“We took this approach because during our initial engagement no resident suggested a full decant, and for them to do so would be very disruptive compared to any temporary move. 

“The consultation also states that under the refurbishment option, some residents may need to be temporarily rehoused because of the works. Any rehousing in these circumstances would be undertaken in accordance with our housing allocations policy. 

“Should residents opt for new homes, they will be secure council tenancies at council rents. We have made it clear in the consultation that the rents for new homes will not be exactly the same as the current rents on the estate. We are at an early design stage for new homes and work to establish future rent levels is ongoing, but our initial estimates are substantially below the numbers being quoted.”

Cllr Gordon said the council wanted to hear residents’ views and would work closely with them as plans are developed and finalised.