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Haringey's Joint Regeneration Partnership Will Deliver Millions Of Pounds Of Investment And Thousands Of New Homes And Jobs

29/03/2017 13:13

Haringey council's plans to enter into a regeneration partnership with developer Lendlease - to bring millions of pounds of investment and thousands of new homes and jobs to the borough - have attracted a lot of attention.

We welcome debate about our approach, but we're concerned some of the statements being made by those opposed to our plans, such as the Reverend Paul Nicolson, continue to overlook the facts in favour of stoking unfounded fears among the very residents we're seeking to support.

As Reverend Nicolson points out, the Northumberland Park estate in north Tottenham already endures levels of unemployment, crime and appalling poor health which no family should have to endure. We're not prepared to turn a blind eye to this - our job is to do what we can to change it. Meanwhile, more Londoners become homeless every week. More families leave London, by their own choice or to be rehoused by desperate local authorities. More families abandon hopes of ever owning part of their own home, let alone all of it.

Reverend Nicholson repeats claims that the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV) isn't democratic, that we will be forcing vulnerable people out of their homes for good and that we are handing over £2bn worth of council assets to the private sector (£2bn is the estimated value of the land after development not before). We have even been accused of a deliberate social cleansing of parts of the borough. None of this is true.

The simple fact is that our borough needs thousands of new homes and jobs. Shackled by the impact of the government's on-going austerity measures and its stringent constraints on borrowing, we have to find a different way to tackle the housing crisis, address inequality and deliver the homes, jobs and economic growth local people have told us they want.

How does a local authority take control of its own destiny and achieve growth, rather than settle for a steady decline? Simply, it takes the one asset it has left - its land, much of which is currently unused or underused. This land can provide the homes and businesses people need and long-term income to keep council services afloat. But in the face of crippling cuts, a council like Haringey could never borrow the money or recruit the talent to build on that land at the scale and pace that's needed. That's why we have brought in a private partner, in Lendlease.

Reverend Nicolson accuses us of 'allowing Lendlease to plunder public land and profit from tenants' misfortune'. Yet far from offering a developer carte blanche, we have assessed the options available and chosen a 50-50 partnership. This approach brings the investment and skills we need, while allowing us to share profits and maintain control with our blocking veto. And it means that we can put the needs of existing council housing tenants first.

Far from being undemocratic, we've specifically designed this arrangement to keep the council involved. Any land transferred into the vehicle will be individually assessed so it is subject to a democratic process including detailed feasibility plans, Cabinet approval, local consultation and eventually a planning application. We will have taken four separate cabinet decisions - in public - to create the HDV, before any land even transfers to it. This is very far from a reckless gamble with our assets which risks bankrupting the Council, as some critics would have you believe. Without the investment and expertise that Lendlease will bring, our ambitions would fall at the first hurdle.

Again and again we are being forced to defend alarmist claims of our HDV making people homeless that are nothing short of scaremongering. So let's be clear: we are committed to rehousing existing tenants on the same rent and the same terms.

And we are absolutely committed to communicating and collaborating with local residents and businesses throughout - this has already started and will continue until the very last brick is laid. In Northumberland Park we've been working with tenants and leaseholders since 2014, while on the nearby Love Lane Estate residents have been overwhelmingly supportive of regeneration.

We are proud of our ambitions for Haringey: to provide a decent home and the best possible opportunities for everyone who wants to live here, and a secure future for the council and the services it provides. We need to take bold, decisive action to make those ambitions real. We completely understand that embarking on a joint venture like this is a major decision, a once-in-a-generation step for the Council. We are not blind to the scale of this proposal, or to the risks involved.

But we believe the most frightening risk is the risk of doing nothing. The risk of watching the housing crisis worsen, pushing more and more families into financial crisis, poor health and declining prospects. The risk of watching other councils build vibrant new economies while Haringey gets left behind. Doing nothing is an active decision, a decision to forego growth and investment, to accept a failed housing market and substandard housing, to turn our backs on the London economy, to accept a future of decline for council services.

Our joint venture approach is a bold step, and not without its risks. But the risk of doing nothing is much, much worse.

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