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Tottenham: “The people here don't need another Shoreditch”

Tottenham is a hive of redevelopment, but has the right balance been struck between opportunity and community? Helen Parton reports, with photography from John Sturrock

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Match day at the new Tottenham Stadium
Match day at the new Tottenham Stadium

Tottenham’s cool credentials have been espoused by media outlets as varied as The Daily Telegraph, Vice magazine and Condé Nast Traveller. Creative businesses have been attracted by cheaper rents than Dalston, nightclub goers by the lack of neighbours and developers by the former two groups signposting that this part of north London is, well, the new east London.

 

Hazel Brown, editor of local magazine Discovering Tottenham, explains: “In the past few years, change has really ramped up. Tottenham has lots of creativity and so many new businesses, as well as many brilliant established small businesses – it’s a real centre of opportunity. But the people here don’t need another Shoreditch.”

 

She points out that Northumberland Park, a ward within Tottenham, has high levels of poverty, borne out by Haringey Council’s ‘State of the Borough’ survey, which shows that the area has a heavy concentration of the most deprived Lower Layer Super Output Areas.

 

Brown continues: “There is a strong, diverse community and I wanted to show that – it’s important to make sure no one’s left behind or priced out.”

 

“It’s a real centre of opportunity. But the people here don’t need another Shoreditch”

 

Rewind eight years and the area was attracting headlines for very different reasons than buzzy bars, craft breweries and the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That was when the area felt the full force of the 2011 riots. Following the shooting of local resident Mark Duggan by Metropolitan Police officers, there were disturbances on Tottenham High Road, with that unforgettable image of Polish woman Monika Konczyk leaping from a burning building, one of several that caught ablaze that hot August night.

 

Further back in older Tottenham residents’ minds was the Broadwater Farm Estate riot in 1985 that occurred following the fatal heart attack of Cynthia Jarrett during a police search of her home. During the riot, one police officer, Keith Blakelock, was killed.

 

In 2012, a report was published entitled It Took Another Riot by the Independent Panel on Tottenham, which was chaired by property developer Sir Stuart Lipton. The report, which was commissioned by then-mayor of London Boris Johnson, made a number of recommendations for the area, among them improved housing and transport links and stronger relationships between the community and the police.

 

Lipton urged the government, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Haringey Council to invest, saying at the time: “Tottenham is a place which has been forgotten over the past 50 years. There hasn’t been the driver to make this place into a community again.” That same year, Johnson announced a £41m funding and investment package for Tottenham, which included £28m in GLA grants.

 

“The new administration cancelled the HDV, stating it ‘did not agree with the large-scale transfer of public assets out of public ownership, believing the council should retain its commercial portfolio’”

 

Housing also formed a significant part of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), a 50:50 joint venture between the council and developer Lendlease, which in 2015 promised 6,400 homes over the next two decades as part of the redevelopment of several estates, among them Broadwater Farm and Northumberland Park.

 

The £2bn scheme caused divisions within the council’s ruling Labour party and following local elections in May 2018, the new administration, elected on a manifesto to cancel the HDV, did just that. It stated it “did not agree with the large-scale transfer of public assets out of public ownership, believing the council should retain its commercial portfolio”.

 

Council leader Joseph Ejiofor said Haringey intended to build council homes, for council rent, on council land, delivering 1,000 in the borough by 2022. Lendlease, for its part, still has a presence in Tottenham at the High Road West development, providing more than 2,500 homes, including 191 replacement homes for council residents living on the Love Lane Estate near White Hart Lane Station, plus 200,000 sq ft of commercial, retail and leisure space.

 

The Cause on Ashley Road: Tottenham is home to a number of popular late-night venues
The Cause on Ashley Road: Tottenham is home to a number of popular late-night venues

 

Charles Adje, cabinet member for strategic regeneration at Haringey Council, explains the local authority’s commitments. He talks of 72 new homes to be built by developers on the Red House site on West Green Road, 46 of which (64%) will be acquired by the council for social rent, and 131 council homes at council rents, part of the Argent Related development at Tottenham Hale with Housing Zone funding of over £100m, supporting the delivery of a number of new homes across north and south Tottenham.

 

Adje also mentions a 10-year strategy for the High Road, “transforming the shops there to make them fit for purpose so that when you come out of Seven Sisters Station you want to engage with local businesses there”.

 

This transport interchange, a tangle of Underground and Overground services to Liverpool Street one way and Cheshunt and Enfield the other, is an attack of the senses: the traffic of the busy A12, the bustle of West Green Road and not least Wards Corner, the site of a battle between developer Grainger plc and the Central and South American community, who have been trading there since the turn of the century. Through a doorway in between the Pueblito Paisa Cafe and a household goods shop and down a corridor, you enter what the Save Latin Village campaign organiser Mirca Morera describes as “the Victoria line to Latin America”.

 

Inside, it is loud with conversations, mostly in Spanish, children running between the units, a mix of boutiques, nail bars, food outlets and money exchange services. “It’s a real centre for Hispanic culture. People who wouldn’t necessarily watch Tottenham Hotspur or go to the West End theatre or London’s museums, they come here,” Morera continues, explaining that many of those who have settled in the area are political refugees from Colombia, with nations such as Iran, Nigeria and Uganda represented here, too.

 

This transport interchange, a tangle of Underground and Overground services to Liverpool Street one way and Cheshunt and Enfield the other, is an attack of the senses

 

The redevelopment of Wards Corner dates back to 2004, with Haringey Council seeking a developer for a number of years. In 2012, it granted planning and conservation consent to Grainger for a mixed-use scheme including space for a new market, other retail space and residential units, plus improved public realm and landscaping. Grainger also gained planning for the redevelopment of nearby Apex House. The developer’s plan is to temporarily relocate Latin Market traders into Apex House, decanting them back when Wards Corner is finished.

 

Johnny Kiddle, senior development manager at Grainger, says: “We are working closely with traders to provide reassurance. This includes a comprehensive package of financial support, including an initial three-month, rent-free period for traders at the temporary market, and a guarantee on rents for up to five years at the new market.”

 

Morera counters that for many traders, “there’s been a huge amount of investment for them, sometimes in the region of £20,000, and suddenly that asset’s going to be replaced”. She also says that because some of the units are on two floors – often with balconies, terraces and tiles that take their cues from the traditional Colombian style – the units offered in the new development are not necessarily like-for-like size-wise. Morera even went to Geneva to the United Nations, where human rights experts said it was “a threat to cultural life” if the redevelopment went ahead. The Wards Corner site was the subject of a compulsory purchase order (CPO), submitted by the council to the secretary of state for housing in 2016, which was confirmed in February 2019. The Latin Market community have appealed the CPO with the High Court.

 

Further up the road, Tottenham Green Market offers another food and drink destination, this one popping up every Sunday with local traders bringing an international flavour, from Downhills Park Jamaican patties to Romanian cake-makers Prestige Patisserie.

 

Marika Gauci, who has lived in the area for 20 years, set up the market in 2016. “I successfully tendered for it through Haringey’s regeneration department. It was a nice space but it had no life and I thought it would be lovely to see it used,” she says.

 

Cafe in the Latin Village, Wards Corner – the centre of a dispute between locals and Grainger
Cafe in the Latin Village, Wards Corner – the centre of a dispute between locals and Grainger

 

Gauci also started the Haringey Food and Drink Festival, which takes place every September, and last year attracted 8,000 locals. But keeping momentum for a weekly market is not easy, as Gauci explains: “I’m a fan of new business, but not a fan of oversaturation. Councils have to be careful not to harm the businesses it’s helped already and the businesses that have been here for many years. We have suffered from too many markets opening in London, especially in the six-mile radius of Tottenham.”

 

Hang a right down past Tottenham Green and onto Broad Lane and you reach Tottenham Hale, another hub of regeneration. Here, developer Argent Related’s plans are already well underway around Tottenham Hale Station. Its 1 Ashley Road building, designed by Alison Brooks Architects, is presently launching – its hot pink marketing suite hard to miss. A mix of studios plus one and two-bedroom apartments, prices start from £365,000. In total, the £500m masterplan includes 1,030 homes, of which 309 are for market sale, 482 build to rent, 108 shared ownership and the rest council homes that Haringey Council’s Adje mentioned. The scheme also includes 15 new retail spaces, a health centre which will serve 30,000 people and two football pitches-worth of tree-lined, paved public space.

 

“The communities of people who already live in Tottenham are the first audience we need to impress and we want them to feel connected to the new spaces. We can’t build in isolation”

 

As far as creating a sense of place for existing Tottenham residents goes, Tom Goodall, chief executive for the Tottenham Hale project, says: “The communities of people who already live in Tottenham are the first audience we need to impress and we want them to feel connected to the new spaces. We can’t build in isolation and expect them to feel engaged in what we are collectively trying to achieve.”

 

Lorna Reith has lived on the Ferry Lane Estate, which is adjacent to the Ferry Island part of Argent Related’s project, since it was built in 1978. She says: “The buildings that are being knocked down [to make way for the new development] aren’t things that people feel particularly wedded to.”

 

The masterplan is replacing retail and light industrial spaces. She is, however, concerned about the preponderance of new, tall buildings in the area – Argent Related’s plan represented six blocks at up to 38 storeys. “Around Ferry Lane, it used to be quite flat, but now I feel we’ve lost something.” That said, she concedes: “I’ve been in local government, I’ve worked for both Haringey and Hackney councils, and I know we need much more council housing and houses that people can afford. You can either build up or build out and then you lose the green belt.”

 

The lack of built-up residential areas up until now in Tottenham has been a boon for those seeking a late-night clubbing destination, just as well-known venues in central parts of the capital are closing and the 24-hour Victoria line began running to N17.

 

Stuart Glen has been running The Cause venue since spring 2018. “I’ve been putting on events for years. I got pushed out of Hackney as there were no spaces,” he explains.

 

The former car mechanic depot on Ashley Road provides the perfect industrial backdrop to celebrate dance music culture. The venue has attracted a range of events from veteran American techno DJs to cult queer night Adonis. As well as night-time hedonism, The Cause does have the day-to-day community in mind too, supporting mental health charities Mind and CALM, and Help Musicians UK, and the building is home to local radio station Threads.

 

Argent Related is developing 1,030 new homes near Tottenham Hale Station
Argent Related is developing 1,030 new homes near Tottenham Hale Station

 

When time is up on this meanwhile space – the last hurrah is a New Year’s Eve spectacular – would Glen like to stay in the area? “I would but there aren’t any buildings left!” he says. A throwaway comment, perhaps, but one that resonates with the end-of-an-era feeling from the rumble of trucks and the army of high-vis-clad contractors in and around Tottenham Hale Station.

 

One creative entrepreneur hoping to get in on the act of Tottenham’s cache is Mary Otumahana, who writes and performs as a rapper under the name WondRWomN. She set up the The Record Shop, which provides free recording sessions for 16 to 25-year-olds, in 2015. Otumahana has a background in youth work and that, coupled with her own experience of not being able to afford recording space herself, encouraged her to set up the enterprise. As well as helping scores of local young people develop their music careers, Otumahana has also collaborated with the likes of O2 and Red Bull.

 

“Lots of brands are interested in working with people in the area. These companies have a corporate social responsibility role in supporting local creativity”

 

“There’s a very entrepreneurial culture within the community,” she says. “Lots of brands are interested in working with people in the area. These companies have a corporate social responsibility role in supporting local creativity.” Otumahana also continues to do WondRWomN gigs, many locally. “It’s a balance between performing and running a business,” she explains.

 

Hers was one of the faces that appeared during the launch of Tottenham Hotspur’s new kit in August, a couple of months after the launch of the new stadium itself.

 

Beyond the eye-catching statistics – the biggest club stadium in London, Europe’s longest bar – there are touches which ring true to Tottenham chair Daniel Levy’s claim to provide “an unrivalled fan experience and significant benefits to our local community”. The media room, which looks more like a trendy co-working space, is used as a cafe on non-game days and Grade II listed Warmington House has been transformed into a museum and heritage centre.

 

The second planned phase of the project also includes a community health centre and 222 new affordable homes. The stadium is not just intended for the English iteration of football but the pitch can be retracted so the American version can be played on artificial turf beneath the grass. Concerts and other events can be hosted here too, filling the gap between the capacities of Wembley and the O2, explains Christopher Lee, managing director at Populous, the architect behind the scheme.

 

On a sweltering June evening this year, Tottenham’s football team were in Madrid playing the Champions League Final and the stadium showed the match. Walking up the High Road from Seven Sisters, people of all ages and ethnicities filled the street, all with a palpable sense of optimism, even if the result didn’t go their way.

 

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