Good News! Haringey Council Ends Its £2 Billion Social Cleansing Deal with Predatory Developers Lendlease

21.7.18

An image the StopHDV campaign made for the development vehicle being scrapped by Haringey's new council on July 17, 2018.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Good news is so rare these days on so many fronts that I want to celebrate what happened in Haringey, in north London, on Tuesday (July 17), when the new Labour council voted to halt the proposals, put forward by the previous Labour administration, to enter into a £2bn joint venture with the Australian property developer Lendlease, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), which would have involved a significant amount of publicly-owned land and assets being transferred to the control of the new company. In housing activist circles, Lendlease are notorious as the profiteering destroyers of the Heygate Estate in Southwark, which is currently being replaced by a new development, Elephant Park, from which all the existing residents have been socially cleansed.

The FT, the only mainstream media outlet to cover the story positively, wrote that the council’s decision was “the latest sign of public anger over lucrative regeneration schemes.” and proceeded to explain that, had the scheme gone ahead, “Lendlease would have provided development expertise and earned fees for managing Haringey’s commercial property portfolio.” However, as the FT added, “the scheme, which would have built 6,400 homes over 20 years and redeveloped the Northumberland Park and Broadwater Farm estates, became the centre of a bitter political feud at the Labour-run council, with opposition from leftwing campaigners, residents and Liberal Democrat councillors.”

I first covered the story last July, after the entirely preventable Grenfell Tower fire brought into sharp focus how disposable those of us who live in social housing are, in the eyes of those supposedly responsible for our homes and our welfare, and I then made contact with campaigners from the StopHDV campaign, and played a benefit gig in support of the campaign in Tottenham in September with my band The Four Fathers.

I also continued to cover the story, as campaigners sought a judicial review, and as the de-selection of Labour councillors proved so successful that anti-HDV candidates were in a majority, and council leader Claire Kober resigned. That was hugely inspirational for housing campaigners everywhere, and in May’s council elections, the anti-HDV candidates duly secured a majority, leading to Tuesday’s vote.

As the council stated on Tuesday (see the document here, and specifically pp. 27-178), “The new administration was elected on the basis of a manifesto which stated, ‘The biggest challenge we face is delivering the new, decent, genuinely affordable housing that local people desperately need. We do not believe that the HDV provides the answer and we do not intend to progress with it.’”

As the council stated in two key paragraphs (4.3 and 4.4, on p. 30), explaining its reasoning:

The first reason is related to the approach taken to public assets within the HDV. The new administration does not agree with the proposed transfer of public assets out of 100% public ownership at the scale envisaged by the HDV proposals. The proposed project agreements would commit the Council to transferring the Commercial Portfolio and (subject to conditions being met) the Wood Green development sites to the HDV, which is in itself a large scale, multi-site transfer of assets out of sole Council control. In particular, the new administration believes on principle that the Council’s Commercial Portfolio should remain in Council ownership and subject to Council management, and should not transfer as a whole portfolio out of solely public ownership. Further, although it is correct that setting up the HDV would not – of itself – commit the Council to transfer any further sites into the HDV, the HDV proposals envisage that if it was ultimately to develop any further sites, these too would be on the basis of transfer of legal title to the HDV. A transfer on this scale is not an acceptable approach for the new Council administration.

The second reason relates to risk. In line with provisions in the Cabinet reports in November 2015 and July 2017, the Council has throughout the development of the HDV proposals, recognised that to proceed with the HDV came with a degree of risk, including those related to committing its commercial portfolio and, subject to satisfaction of conditions, land for development. These risks combined those to which the Council would have been directly exposed, and those to which it would have been indirectly exposed through its 50% stake in the HDV.

As the FT also noted, the newly elected councillors, under new leader Joseph Ejiofor, said they were “elected on a promise to build council homes on council-owned land”, and voted “to establish a council-owned company to provide affordable homes instead of the Lendlease deal.”

In response to the news that the council was withdrawing from the HDV, Lendlease sent a threatening letter, noting that, if the Cabinet “decides to attempt to reverse our appointment as the successful bidder, we will have no choice but to seek to protect Lendlease’s interests given our very significant investment over the last two and a half years.”

As the FT also explained, “According to cabinet papers, the council’s decision to scrap the project would result in Haringey having to pay Lendlease approximately £520,275 — equivalent to half of the costs for establishing the development company. The authority has already spent close to £2.5m on costs relating to setting up the HDV, including nearly £1.6m on legal advice.” The FT also noted that “Lendlease has spent about £4m on work related to the project, according to council documents.”

Responding to the council’s decision, StopHDV, which has been an exemplary grass-roots campaign, wrote, “We celebrate this great victory for people power and re-state our principles – No permission for demolition, No social cleansing!”

I wholeheartedly agree, and I join with StopHDV in savouring this victory, even though I am aware that other battles remain to be fought in Haringey — to save housing in Love Lane that is earmarked for destruction because it is uncomfortably close to the monstrous White Hart Lane development, which, to my mind, looks like nothing less than the type of excess that, in Rome, led to the creation of the Coliseum, and to save two blocks on the Broadwater Farm Estate. These have been identified as being unsafe by the council, but Broadwater Farm has been in the sights of estate destroyers for so long that it’s impossible not to see it as a stealthy way to start decommissioning the entire estate, even without the HDV.

Just as importantly, although the struggle in Haringey has provided hope to housing campaigners everywhere, we are all still under the yoke of a political culture that sees social housing as disposable, that sees the insatiable greed of private developers as something admirable, and that has no understanding of what genuinely affordable housing is for ordinary working people.

I know all about this struggle from my work in Lewisham where I set up the No Social Cleansing in Lewisham campaign, specifically to highlight the ongoing Save Reginald Save Tidemill struggle, to save a community garden and a block of council flats from needless destruction, and the threat to the Achilles Street estate in New Cross, and, of course, from other ongoing destruction or threatened destruction — close to home in Southwark and Lambeth, but also across London, as was made clear in March, when Green councillor and GLA member Sian Berry exposed the 34 estates that Sadiq Khan has approved for destruction, despite promising that there would be no more estate destruction without ballots.

This week, Sadiq Khan finally confirmed his ballots proposal, although, as the Guardian noted, although “[r]edevelopment schemes in London that would result in the demolition of social housing will only get city hall funding if existing residents approve the scheme in a ballot,” the measure announced by the Mayor on Wednesday “will not apply retrospectively, meaning it will have no impact on some hugely contentious plans by London councils to raze existing estates.”

For further analysis of the shortcomings of Khan’s proposals, do check out the response of Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing (ASH), but now, as I promised at the beginning, I’m going to call a brief halt to any further negative thoughts, and bask for a while in the warm glow of the StopHDV campaign’s victory in Haringey.

Note: For a couple of rather shamefully biased responses to the decision, see the BBC (“A ‘Momentum’ council which scrapped a major housing scheme has been accused of ‘throwing away’ £20m of investment”, and the Evening Standard.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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12 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    In my latest article, I congratulate campaigners in Haringey, in north London, for bringing to an end plans by the Labour council to enter into a deal with the rapacious Australian-based international property developer Lendlease that would have involved transferring a significant amount of publicly-owned land and assets into a joint development vehicle, the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), and the destruction of two estates, Northumberland Park and Broadwater Farm, with many others doubtless following. A huge grass-roots campaign led to pro-HDV councillors being de-selected (or de-selecting themselves, including the council’s leader, Claire Kober) in the run-up to May’s council elections, when an anti-HDV majority took over the council, leading to this week’s memorable ruling that the HDV would be scrapped. As I note, other battles remain to be fought in Haringey, and the culture in general in London and across the country is still one of estate destruction and social cleansing, and pandering to greedy private developers, but I wanted to take a moment to savour this victory, and to thank the Stop HDV campaign for providing inspiration to all housing campaigners!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Del Moss wrote:

    The problem is they’ve said they’re going to setup a property dev co to build “affordable” housing instead and the StopHDV campaigners seem OK with this. Compared to the HDV it might not seem too bad but it still means land and money being diverted away from council housing and what’s to stop the dev co being sold to a company like Lendlease in a few years?

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Simon Elmer wrote:

    Well, if Haringey council set up an SPV, as Labour councils have in Hackney, Newham, Croydon and Lambeth, its for one purpose only: to demolish and redevelop their estates. And if they demolish their estates the cost of simply replacing the lost homes means the estates will be tripled in capacity with at least half the new properties for market sale, half the affordable housing provision composed of properties for shared ownership, and little or no homes for social rent. That’s not politics or ideology but economics, and no manner of head wobbling from Oh Jeremy Corbyn will change the financial fugures that make this the case. Remember that the Labour Party opposed the HDV because of the financial risks of handing over such vast swathes of the council’s land and housing to an international property developer with such an appalling track record, not because they oppose the social cleansing the demolition of that housing will cause.

    I think it’s about time we had some crystal clear clarity on what estate regeneration is and isn’t. It’s not an attempt to build more homes for Londoners. It’s not an option forced on councils by central government cuts that prohibit them from refurbishing their housing stock. It’s not a means of cross-subsidising the building of more council homes. That’s all total and utter bullshit. The estate regeneration programme – which means demolition and redevelopment – has been very carefully designed, legislated for and financed to do one thing: demolish the council housing stock that presents a threat to the prices of private property, get access to the land it stands on, and realise its latent value by replacing those homes with investments for global capital. That’s all it’s about.

    So why are Labour councils, under the guidance of the Labour Mayor, following the housing policy of the Labour Party, and under the cloak of bullshit sprouted by the Labour Leader, pursuing this programme? Please listen to this, because it’s about time people understood this clearly: it’s to demonstrate to the City, the CEOs of the FTSE100 index, the press barons, the heads of the BBC and the civil service, the British aristocracy that still owns most of the land, the Russian oligarchs, Chinese industrialists and Arab royal families buying up the rest of it, the heads of the British Army, Navy and Airforce that protect our imperial interests, the Secret Services that watch over us, the House of Lords and the Royal Family, and the USA without whose approval we don’t do anything – in other words, to the people and institutions that actually run the sixth largest economy in the world with the lowest public spending in Europe, rather than the mediocrities, butchers boys and building industry lobbyists in Parliament – that Labour is a party fit for capitalism.

    I don’t understand how this can’t be made any clearer than it is by just looking around you at what’s being done in our name with the fruits of our labour, or how the people of Britain have suddenly been convinced by a puppet in a crumpled suit that there genuinely exists a parliamentary road to socialism or anything resembling it. There’s as much chance of that happening as there is of me becoming the next Secretary of State for Housing. And just so it’s clear what I’m saying: even if I did, it wouldn’t make the tiniest difference to the estate regeneration programme, any opposition to which would see me sacked immediately.

    The ONLY opposition to this programme that will have any effect on it will come from the residents whose homes are threatened, not through petitioning the councils and politicians implementing the demolition, not from painting banners and singing songs and marching round Parliament Square with Owen Jones, and not from joining the Radical Housing Network and voting for Oh Jeremy Corbyn, but through taking back control of their homes and lives from the instruments of global capitalism we call the UK state.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Del Moss wrote:

    I think Kingston amply demonstrates that regeneration is not about building more or better council housing. In 2012, after we secured a self-financing deal by rejecting stock transfer for a third time, the Lib Dem Council announced a 30-yr £400m programme of investment in council housing. Savills advised that £191m was needed to address the historic underinvestment and bring all the properties up to a decent standard, only £50m of which was needed to do the Better Homes works. So the Council has about £200m it could use to build additional council housing, whether by infill or buying, by CPO if necessary, extra land to build a new estate on, perhaps with a minority of private sale properties to provide extra funds. It also owns three golf courses so could perhaps build on one or more of those, or sell them at market price to a developer to raise additional funds for council housing. Yet the Lib Dems, back in power after 4 years of the Tories, are now insisting that regeneration is essential and Sadiq Khan is forcing them to build 1000s of new homes on our estates. In fact his London Plan says that the density of suburban streets of semis should be increased by allowing flats to be built on the land, including in gardens, but the Council has vigorously opposed this.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Simon and Del. Brief celebrations over regarding the demise of the HDV. Now it’s back to the fight.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Matz wrote:

    No final victory, no final defeat, just the same ole battle to be fought over & over again… NEXT!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    I suppose that’s right, Richard. It initially struck me as a rather bleak analysis, but essentially, yes, nothing’s set in stone, is it? Councils still have no money, Lendlease is still circling like a vulture … I think that’s why I wanted to just take a moment to celebrate the very particular defeat of the HDV plans.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Matz wrote:

    I’m celebrating too, briefly…

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Sue Lawes wrote:

    Lendlease contributed lots of cash to this “independent think tank” that recently wrote a report on council building new homes (that LBL and Southwark contributed to): https://www.centreforlondon.org/publication/borough-builders/

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sue. Yes, Centre for London keeps coming up on my radar. They describe themselves as “the capital’s dedicated think tank”, and claim to be “politically independent”, but how can they be when they receive so much funding from councils, developers, bankers and housing associations? True “political independence” surely requires funding that isn’t contaminated by “stakeholders” (ugh! gak! how I hate that word)
    These are their funders for 2016, when Lendlease gave them between £40,000 and £50,000. The entire list of donors is quite instructive: http://www.centreforlondon.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/CfL_Annual_Report_Digital_AW.pdf

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Petey Rosebar wrote:

    Kober works for the developers now.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the reminder, Petey. Yes, she’s Director of Housing at the much-criticised housing management company Pinnacle, and Alan Strickland, Haringey’s head of housing, also joined the gravy train. He’s now Director of External Affairs & Partnerships for Optivo Homes, formed from the merger of AmicusHorizon and Viridian.
    I really need to do some close scrutiny of the behaviour of the big housing associations, who, as well as becoming more and more like private developers the bigger they get, also amplify their ambitions though the G15 organization they’re all part of. These are the members:
    A2Dominion
    Catalyst
    Clarion
    Metropolitan
    Hyde
    L&Q
    Network Homes
    Notting Hill Genesis
    One Housing
    Optivo
    Peabody
    Southern Housing Group
    See: http://g15london.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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