Further to my post last week, I gritted my teeth last night, put on a brave face and got myself off to the Harringay & St Ann's Area Forum. Part of this meeting was given over to an explanation and Q&A of the plans to develop our part of the borough over the next 20 years.
My aim in attending was to better understand what is planned and the status of the current plans. I'm not sure that I got the complete picture, but I'm certainly better informed. I provide my understanding of this issue below.
What the Plans are about
The current plans are fundamental to how our area will change and develop over the coming 20 years. Make no mistake about it; what gets agreed in these plans will amount to an unchallengeable legal commitment to development. And, these plans are not about fiddling around the edges; they see significant development in our neighbourhood, covering as much as 15-20% of the land area of Harringay. Even if no project affects your road, these plans will affect your neighbourhood.
Where the Plans Come From
As I understand it, a key driver for this planning is top down. The Mayor's London Plan requires Haringey to submit plans to meet certain development targets over the next 20 years. Most particularly, this means housing targets. Haringey has been told that it has to find space for 1,502 new homes each year for the next 20 years.
What the Plans Mean
If the council fails to submit appropriate plans, in effect it concedes all decision-making powers to the Mayor and the Planning Inspectorate. So, as I understand it, the borough's choices are restricted, but there is still some element of choice about where in the borough and in what form development happens.
Once the plans are approved, they commit the Council to what they contain. This means that if planning applications are made in accordance with the plans, the Council is legally obliged to approve them. There will be no second bite of the cherry, no appeals, no representations.
The Council will also be given powers to compulsorily purchase any of the sites included.
So, be warned, once these plans are agreed, that's it; the die is cast.
What's in the Plans
The Sites Allocation Development Plan Document is the Council's first draft at responding to its statutory duties. It does two things:
The plan includes two types of site:
As I understand it, the essential difference between the two is simply scale. Site Allocations are large developments; Housing Trajectory Sites are smaller housing developments.
Seven places in Harringay are included:
For the site allocations, you can read in the plan what is planned for each place. No narrative is provided at this stage for the housing trajectory sites.
To give you some sense of the scale of change, at Sainsbury's the plan envisages putting the car park underground and developing the site with eight storey housing units. Almost the whole of the Harringay Warehouse district is zoned for development. In this area, the development is likely to be intensive with a high proportion of multi-floor units. These represent huge changes to the physical appearance of the area, as well as to the population size and composition.
What Influence Can we all Have
Not all change is bad. Some will be positive and some will have downsides. As I understand it, these plans are at the broad brush stage. The Council has been given targets, officers have identified places they think are the ones that can be used to meet those targets and have made suggestions on what sort of development might take place on each.
So here's what's to play for, areas we can influence:
1. It's very unlikely (but not impossible) that a site will be excluded at this stage. If that is to happen, another site would have to be found to carry the development planned for the excluded site.
2. Thoughts about the type of development planned? (For example, the Sainsbury's area is zoned for high-rise housing development? Is that the right use? If so is it the right type of housing?)
3. Thoughts about the implications of the developments (For example, last night the knock-on effect of traffic was mentioned by Cllr Alexander and a member of the public raised the implications for local health and education provision.).
3. Opportunities the plans might present for our area? (For example, with all the planned development, an examination of traffic flows including local road closures like Hermitage Road may be on the cards. The plan mentions the poor access to Finsbury Park from Harringay. I've been writing about a Park gate for harringay for years. Could that be part of the plans?)
As I understand it, at this stage the plans are broad brush and the Council is asking for a broad brush, as well as more specific responses. Last night we were told that if the community feels strongly, the Council will have to look again at its plans.
This is complex stuff. I think I may have hold of one end of a piece of string, but I certainly don't claim to understand the whole shebang.
The formal consultation for this stage of the plans runs until 7th March. If you'd like to learn more there are supposed to be drop-in events coming up at our two local libraries.
AlternativeIy, we could try something else. I was quite impressed with Steve Kelly, the new Assistant Director for Planning who was at the meeting last night and I suggested a few things to him in a conversation afterwards. Firstly I asked if he'd be prepared to arrange for a limited response online Q&A on HoL (to understand the process and ask questions - not to respond to the consultation). I also asked if it would be possible to arrange for someone to attend an informal meeting locally to respond to questions. Steve seems open to both possibilities. Is anyone interested?
Responding to the Plans
1. Formal Response
2. Another Option
If enough people are interested, we could arrange to meet informally, discuss the plans and possibly think about submitting a collective response.
Who's in Charge
Players appearing for the Council team were:
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement
Stephen Kelly, Asst Director Planning
Gavin Ball, Planning Policy Officer
Hugh. I am interested in what will happen here, but have to admit that I suspect I am like most folks in admitting I have limited wherewithal to work out how to navigate most of this, nor that much time...
The suggestion to meet with Steve Kelly is useful, and I would happily attend what you describe as an informal meeting. Let me know if this comes off.
That's about where I'm at with it, Justin. As you say, we're pretty much all the same, but I'm forcing myself on this one because the changes are so significant and I feel we oughtn't just to stand by and devolve all decision making power to paid officers who don't live here and won't have to live with the consequences.
Hugh, thanks for summing this up so comprehensively - its a lot to get our heads round and there was a fair bit of lively discussion at last night's St Anns & Harringay Area Forum but its really important that councillors and residents work together on this for the best possible outcomes for Harringay. A meeting with Steve Kelly is an excellent idea and a great why to start pick this apart and start working on strategies to make this work for us as best it can.
Like the idea of the informal meeting Hugh. If I can be of use in providing a venue just let me know.
Hugh thanks for pointing all this out, I really appreciate your eagle eyes.
Is there any indication, I wonder, when all this building would happen?
I think we can only be as precise as to say probably over the next twenty years. All this stage will do is to create the precondition for building to happen - to open up the land. This will make it available for builders in the normal way.
You said something initially Hugh about the fact planning cannot be refused once this goes through. Surely if something is utterly wrong for this environment then the council can send it back and ultimately refuse to allow a structure to be developed. I am not suggesting that a piece of land cannot be developed on, but that inappropriate designs must still meet relevant planning criteria. This does not offer a free licence to build anything that may or may not be mapped out in 10 years, correct?
My guess is as good as yours and I'll need to refer you to the professionals. My guess would be that design issues and accommodation for parking etc will still be subject to planning approval, but there won't be any question as to whether a thing can be developed. So ultimately it'll be about shaping not accepting and reciting applications. Make sense?
Our experience in Tottenham Hale is that they start with a "Masterplan" and this sets the parameters. The planners themselves may or may not understand the implications. But local residents don't; and the developers sure do! So when it comes to later objecting to individual applications, local people start with their hands legally tied behind their backs.
Some councillors and even a few planners will tell you that they'd really like to turn down an application but that it's in the Masterplan.
Another problem is that once the developers get the increased heights and densities they want in one location, they often come back for a bit more. "Oh just another two storeys, please pretty please. You'll hardly notice the difference." And then when they've built their tower blocks in one part of a neighbourhood, they'll probably use this as a precedent for building higher nearby.
Here's an example from Hale Village where Tottenham & Wood Green Friends of the Earth opposed what they described as "Skyscraper Housing". But guess what, it was in the Masterplan. We suggested that if they got two "Pavilions" higher, wouldn't this set a precedent? "Yep", said the planners.
What we need is a Planning Committee which contains councillors who stop playing Party Political games, who work together, are razor sharp, and who hire officers who can figure out the developers' plans. Then the Council will stand some chance of getting the very best deal for local residents. Which, with the current lot, seems about as likely as getting a good cup of tea from the carton holding the teabags.
Instead, as I've mentioned before, the whole process is far more like the arrival of the Vogon Constructor Fleet.
>>stop playing Party Political games, who work together, are razor sharp, and who hire officers who can figure out the developers' plans.
World peace, you left out world peace!
There is no way on earth anyone will ever stop Cllrs playing games. The whole atmosphere is one based on the English idea that an elected rep can do whatever they want once in office. Add that to a hierarchy of mainly men and you have the old "command and control" mechanism our "army nation" has perfected over centuries of war with most other countries. Is it a displacement activity to long for something that can never be achieved?
I am surprised that you:
a) articulate a desire to control behaviour.
Do you really want to enforce "good behaviour" among cllrs? How would that work? Strong leadership? Severe sanctions? Smacked bottoms? Love-ins?
b) want cllrs to work together.
Are you going to enforce that, too? Isn't it simply a symptom of our system - it easily becomes dog eat dog? Isn't that the fault of the larger adversarial system the whole country elects politicians to prolong? Although Haringey was one of the few places that voted for a change in the election system that may have diminished this, we are still stuck with it, with no realistic prospect of overturn. Are you really calling for a change that the majority actively do not want and, if so, what does that make you?
c) want cllrs who ... are razor sharp.
Are you suggesting intelligence tests, or are you more interested in quick thinkers? "Councillor excluded for being too slow" It would mean big changes, Alan, so big that you would probably have to become King for it to happen.
It would surely be more helpful to advocate practical steps that can be demonstrated to work. You more than most around here, with your razor sharp, cultured intelligence, long and detailed memory, decades of real local experience and proximity to great people are surely in a wonderful position to bring about the beneficial change that we all want, Alan, simply by the strength of your (cogent) ideas, but please don't weaken your case with pie in the sky.
i look forward to some of their splendid poetry then