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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

I’ve lived here for years & until the last few days had never visited the St Ann’s hospital site. If you’ve never been before, you MUST go!! Turn right as you go in the main entrance, which is much quieter - the site has several beautiful but derelict Victorian buildings, mid-century modern blocks & an incredible water tower. I’ve seen it from afar but didn’t realise it sat within the hospital grounds! There’s also this beautiful Victorian terraced/covered walkway, which seems to stretch on forever!

Aside from the fantastic architecture (we really do need to cherish these beautiful historic buildings, it seems we’re losing so many in the borough), there’s a couple of open lawned gardens & many, many trees & hedgerows. We don’t tend to have large expanses of mature hedgerows like this in the borough & they were teeming with garden/song birds. We visited at dusk & the sound of the birdsong was so loud & diverse!! This must be one of the largest & most undisturbed wildlife habitats (we saw no other walkers) in Haringey/North London. We saw 3 foxes too!

An absolute treat of a place, on our doorstep & with full public access, well worth a visit.

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With the support of the GLA, I shot a huge virtual tour of the hospital a couple of years back including the interiors of all the Victorian and Edwardian buildings and the outside areas. But I ran out of steam processing it! Even so, it's all saved for posterity, almost!

The Victorian bits are indeed beautiful. Was opened as a fever hospital. I knew the place when it was still a busy mental healthcare centre. The old Muswell Hill mental hospital also had walkways like that. Where have those services moved to? - the Wikipedia article is very out-of-date ...

Indeed. Here’s an outline of the hospital’s early history. 

I think there is still an inpatient eating disorder clinic

As far as I know having walked around it a lot of times and spoken to the guards etc, it's all disused. The previous owners (BEH NHS Trust) cut off the water and drainage to the whole site years ago so it couldn't be squatted. Here's the way it's been carved up AFAIK, leased back by the GLA to BEH for the car parking spaces:

Thanks for the tip. Live around the corner, have even been to an appt at the hospital but never taken a walk around the outside perimeter path past the water tower. It was beautiful at dusk. I also saw the lone fox.

It's been one of our favourite walks for a while now!

Sadiq has 'partnered' with 34,000-home not-for-profit housing association Catalyst. Catalyst have bought the right from the GLA landowner to convert the 7 hectare site into 934 homes, preserving none of the wards but a few of the original Victorian buildings. The water tower could end up as luxury flats?  Probably over 2,000 new residents.

Planning permission application next year, likely to start construction the year after on arguably the largest single intervention in Haringey life for a very long time.

They anticipate our council buying at least 100 and offer a further 50 to any Community Land Trust who can win GLA approval.

They are seeking local comments, providing 'visualisations' as to how St Ann's could look:

Many of the unique trees will hopefully be preserved and new walking and cycling routes across the site will increase 'connectivity' for us all, providing a number of direct routes for the first time since the site was built in 1895. Opening up one of the existing disused tunnels under the railway to Arena has been 'future-proofed' (developer code for 'we can't afford it' but don't want to annoy).

As the Council say they want to build lots of social homes and have the money, why can't they buy at least 200 of the homes up for grabs to meet their targets rather than build them elsewhere at potentially more money? Better a St Ann's under local occupation than an armoured village...

There was a great deal of involvement (consultation?) with local residents about four years ago and I ran out of steam with the whole process.  Big to do, a series of meetings, we asked for things like allotments, they said they listened, didn't act although they said they listened.

Local people need things like open spaces and allotments. I understand money is important so they can redevelop the east section. Catalyst does housing for NHS staff too.... I wonder what the affordable / commercial split is to be??

60% of the 934 homes are to be 'affordable' (that means not affordable to local residents though).

That's 560 'affordable' homes, the rest (374) to be sold at full price on the open market.

50 of those 560 for sale to a community led housing (CLH) organisation on a short lease. Given the low level of subsidy, the CLH homes could end up more expensive than council homes. A chunk of the 50 will have to be sold off to square that circle.

That leaves 510 'affordable'.

60% of the 510 will be London Affordable Rent ('LAR' for short, a GLA-created rent more expensive than council rent). That's 306 homes at LAR.  Our council could buy all these, but so far seem to have indicated (nothing provable yet) they'll take 100 homes.

This 100 homes council 'decision' seems to me to be a lot like many of the housing decisions taken - a whim entirely at the discretion of unknown persons within the Council with no need for any sort of justification (because they use 'commercial confidentiality' to cover everything up), so no comeback on anyone then...

20% of the 510 London Shared Ownership - that's 102 dwellings in an area where lots of people are in housing need and have no savings, so can't afford this type of (poor value) deal anyway. So who will raise the necessary (poor value, limited supply) mortgages to buy them?

22 are already earmarked for Hospital staff (who have the right to buy them stripped away in a secret, GLA-policy-destroying deal with our council) so that leaves 80 people from outside the area gambling with their meagre finances, hoping to make a killing on house prices (shared ownership does not do that) so they can sell up and buy a 'real' home...

20% London Living Rent - another GLA-created scheme (why do they create 'schemes', show who's boss?) That's 102 dwellings for 'middle-income' households (average two-thirds of the market rent). Just over £1000 per month for a two-bed at last year's prices. Again, let's sweep the poor under the carpet and just celebrate the success of building homes for people likely to one day buy them from us, destroying the public holding, making the crisis worse. Buy hey, let's rename them 'affordable' - after all, the rent is based on median local incomes! See what we did there?

'Public' housing has dwindled

 from it's nearly-half-the-country 1970's peak to between 8-17% (depending on who you believe), in favour of the developer's monopoly that brings vast offshore profits and deepens inequality.

The Thatcherite right-wing drip drip drip of Councils as incompetent and money-wasting has lodged under our skins. We get the Council we deserve. Who here thinks our Council the worst?  There are probably measures by which they are, but I have seen plenty that show them in a range - on average as to be expected for an outer-London borough that's almost inner-London like in parts. Hardly ever bottom or top.

People here on this forum often 'hate' on our Council, giving up on responsibility for their actions on our behalf (as if there was an alternative). We should get behind them (if only to look over their shoulders).

The housing crisis

has of course deepened during the pandemic, hitting the poorest hardest, because the Tories do not want Councils to resume doing what Councils have done well in the past - build the homes themselves with a unique local understanding nobody else can muster. Look around; many council-built homes still paying us back, sound investments, land we still own housing people in need - what's not to like?

'Landlordism' dictates that public land is given away to profit-making developers to subsidise often poorer-quality 'social homes' in the same development. The increasingly scarce and precious resources of public land is sold off this way, never to be reclaimed, lost to future generations. So that developers can make short-term profits then disappear, leaving councils to pay for the increased burdens imposed in perpetuity.

It's all secret as usual, but it looks like this developer may have leased the St Ann's land from the GLA on a 999 year lease. Private home buyers have the right to continually extend their lease (at 99 years at a time), so we'll never get the land back.

Councils are being driven by market failure. The housing market has failed. The few 'kingpin' developers hold us to ransom. Outsourcing has destroyed Councils capacity - remember when they used to employ full-time architects. Some of whom delivered success, maybe as a result of the seismic shock that we had suffered. Maybe the recent shock can re-prioritise this vital need?

It will take years for Councils to get good at housebuilding again (with as many setbacks as there are bankruptcies in the private sector), but they will succeed - in Thatchers words, TINA (There is No Alternative).

Goodbye to the local plan

Developers now instruct councils - the Tories have given developers so many rights that it's all upside down. Tories have even managed to undercut their own insistence that Councils come up with a 'local plan'. Tories wanted 'local plans' to divide and conquer, pretending they were increasing 'engagement'. 

They knew that so few people trust institutions (because the right wing undermines the public sector all the time as a matter of ideology) that local plans would never be even close to a representative view, so they can use the lack of response to impose, whilst trumpeting the devolution of power - ha!

Tories quite simply imposed impossible house-building targets on councils without giving them the means.  Guess what? Councils failed to meet impossible targets so were 'punished' by being forced to give developers even more free reign. And having the weight given to local plans abolished (bonfired!). So our expressed local view no longer matters.

Our council is one of those who has missed it's government-imposed 'gotcha' housing targets, Not only is the 'local plan' invalidated - there is now a 'presumption in favour of sustainable development' (developers must be waived through in a hurry). Are our Council telling us that? Nope, they're urging us to respond to the Haringey-wide consultation, which ends next week.

Councils have swallowed all of this for decades

even though, time after time when 'viability assessments' have been divulged (in the teeth of the developer industry's opposition), it turns out that developers are appallingly bad at financial matters, only profiting from the massive subsidies and benefits they can claim in a property market has helped London earn it's sobriquet of 'money laundering capital of the world'. Lots and lots of smoke and mirrors covering up incompetence that seems almost criminal to me.

In this development, the GLA decided to 'give away the right to sell 40% to the highest bidder so as to get 60% built at cheaper rents' because what else could they do to build homes when the Tories hate 'Labour' London and won't give them anywhere even close to the money everyone agrees is needed to diminish the housing crisis? 40% is a huge price to pay but much better than in the past when developers got far, far more. When Boris was in charge it was even more of a field day for commercial interests.

As 'cross-subsidised' homes (pretty much all that is ever built for Councils nowadays) all come with a right to buy (even the rented ones), it means that Thatcher's legacy is in full operation. In future, every single home could end up being owned by private landlords and rented back to the council. If that happens (as it has everywhere else) what was the point of the development? An entire estate privately owned. Why are we subsidising private homes when the need is for public ones? Why The council could, by 'partnering' copy other Councils and effectively remove the right to buy but will they find a way? Not invented here. 

Still, we only have ourselves to blame - let's hope our Council house-building program goes well. If it does, the benefits to each and every one of us are significant and long-lasting - this is our manor. Let's see council housing-building massively ramped up to begin to approach meeting the need in our lifetimes - we owe at least that, if not more.

I worked at this hospital when they were building a new operating theatre sometime in the 80's. Much of my work involved installing Steam and condense pipework in the undercrofts below the infectious disease wards on the west side of the grounds and a small pumproom next to the theatre. Im fairly sure the victorian tower was a cooling tower for the steam condense that was pumped back to the boiler room to re-use. Its no wonder the NHS is now overwhelmed when all these hospitals are being closed for developers to build overpriced apartment blocks.

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