Tottenham is on course to see a major transformation in coming years, buoyed by investment and improved transport accessibility. But the development industry as a whole must learn to adopt new and better ways of engaging the ‘silent majority’ in wide-ranging changes affecting their locality.
Those were some of the key points to emerge at yesterday’s NLA On Location event held in Tottenham Town Hall. The event – which was prefaced by protesters outside the venue complaining at what they saw as locals being marginalized by big business and developers – was kicked off by Haringey Council chief executive Nick Walkley, who commented that although Tottenham was a ‘place already, with a proud history’, there is a ‘crushing need’ for more housing and more affordable housing across London.’
GLA deputy mayor Richard Blakeway is the man charged with leading this crusade, and the Housing Zone announced for Tottenham will help with accelerating supply. ‘We have to do things differently’, he said, emphasizing that beyond the bare numbers, the GLA is keen on ‘total regeneration’, with schools, bridges and other elements like libraries also part of the housing zone mix within the total £310m of GLA funding. ‘The aim is to make a place that is not just about housing need’, said Blakeway, in places which are ‘fantastic already’. Tottenham will get around 10,000 homes in the plan helped by £44m of GLA funding. Allies & Morrison director Anthony Benson is involved with a masterplan for the Tottenham Hale area, stressing that local employment, making and manufacturing must not be forgotten and that a central task is to put a ‘sense of the centre’ back into the area around the High Road. But consultation is key: ‘The conversation is a continuum’, he said. ‘As you saw on the way in, people do care. You have to respect the strength of feeling and engage with that debate’. Arup associate Sophie Camburn took the audience through the High Road West masterplan with its five ‘zones of change’ to create a new London neighbourhood that includes a new sports and leisure destination for north London. ‘The architecture will come, hopefully through a number of hands’, she said. ‘What’s important to us is to get the structure right.’
The event included a representation from ‘Our Tottenham’ – an organistaion which is unhappy with the way it perceives regeneration is happening in a top-down, ‘slash and burn’ manner. But Haringey councilor Alan Strickland said the authority had made a conscious effort to better engage with locals with a consultation programme that visited schools, supermarkets, workplaces and homes, rather than the usual small-scale event at a library. A local business-owner speaker from the floor said his concern was the way we engage with people and that that method must now change because of the big ‘silent majority’ he felt remained marginalized.
The conference also heard from Crossrail 2 managing director at TfL Michele Dix, who showed how the new line – which now has a safeguarded route – will cost £25bn but will add 10 % to public transport capacity. For places like Tottenham, this line could also help catalyse new housing and provide the accessibility for locals to more jobs, she said.
Argent partner Robert Evans said it was the ‘town centre nature’ of the area that appealed to the firm to get involved, while John McAslan and Partners director Aidan Potter said his practice was already ‘on the front line’ with its new N17 studio and commitment to engage with the career prospects of local. ‘We’re a small but significant attempt to engage experientially’, he said.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly