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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

The rebranding of our neighbourhood is about to become a live issue again with the Council asserting its claimed right to choose what we're called for the signage to be erected as part of the 2013 regeneration work.

The tussle over Harringay's name has been going on for over a hundred years. Throughout that time it seems to have featured a struggle between the Council, on the one hand, claiming a right to choose and the local people, on the other, demanding a right to self-determination. 

Over a hundred years ago, and long before the creation of Haringey borough, Hornsey District Council decided to change the spelling of Harringay Neighbourhood to Haringey. Local people took exception at this imposition from above and resisted the change. The opinion was expressed by, amongst others, the Harringay Ratepayers Association who represented the people of one of three Harringay Wards. Theirs was in part of what is now St Ann's Ward. The legacy of the struggle can be seen today in the signage along the Harringay Passage.

Local people won the day then and our name was safe until the latter part of the last century when the Council administration decided they had a right to change Harringay's name. Haringey Councillor and cabinet member, Nilgun Canver explained a couple of years back:

Too much emphasis on Harringay confuses everyone with the borough Haringey and I’m afraid it refers to the Harringay ward and excludes the Gardens

It's odd to see the modern day Haringey Labour party, erstwhile representatives of the people, following in the footsteps of the Tory burghers of Hornsey Council. Moreover, I'm afraid this argument just doesn't wash with me. The inhabitants of countless other London boroughs seem to manage perfectly well with boroughs and towns that bear the same name. Islington, Hackney, Camden, Enfield and many others all survive. Perhaps the real issue is that a name was chosen that doesn't share the same name as the Council's chosen administrative capital as it is the case for all the other London boroughs I've mentioned. Their vanity perhaps requires that it should do so. But is this reason enough for us to be stripped of our historical name?

For many people, this whole issue may seem esoteric and rather irrelevant. However, I'm not alone in taking a rather different view. My belief is that for our neighbourhood to thrive and for people to identify with it, it needs to have a single name. Right now, as the traders magazine posted through your door just before Christmas bears witness, we have at least three names. How can our identity and distinctiveness be developed when this is the case.

I said just now that I wasn't alone in taking a stance on this. In New York, Democrat Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries thought the principle involved in the issue was so important that he introduced the Neighbourhoods Identity Act, requiring New York City to develop a community-oriented process of community agreement before neighbourhoods can be rebranded or boundaries redefined. 

I'm with you Hakeem.

So then, which name? The current variants are:

  • the original Harringay
  • Harringay Green Lanes
  • Green Lanes

Others have been suggested including Harringay Park and Harringay Village.

My choice is simple. I stick with Harringay. Why? Two reasons. Firstly, that's the name we've had for 130 years and I see no need to change it. Secondly, the other names don't work for me. Green Lanes is a road that runs from Newington Green to Enfield. If avoidance of confusion is the aim, this doesn't do it. Harringay Green Lanes is a three word name. Three word names don't stick. Most of them tend to get abbreviated to the first word of the name anyway. Kingston-upon-Thames for example is more commonly called Kingston. St Martins in the Fields is known as St Martins, and so on.

I suppose there is a third reason for me and that's just that I don't like people asserting rights over me that I don't believe they have. I don't believe that the Council or the Green Lanes Strategy Group have the right to change the name of the place I live in, no matter how much good work they may do. That just bridles. No, I'm with the thoroughly democratic instincts of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. Even if I am a voice in the wilderness, I say if there's any need to tinker with the name of our neighbourhood, then let the community decide what it should be.

In 2013, as things stand the Council and the Green Lanes Strategy Group will assert their right to brand your neighbourhood as they see fit as part of the Harringay regeneration project. I was promised that the community would be given the right to choose and to influence the way that choice was made. In a  few recent email exchanges I have detected the possibility of more than a little back-pedaling on this issue. 

So, once I have written this post, I will email Councillor Canver, Chair of the Green Lanes Strategy Group to ask for her public commitment that the community be given the determining voice in what our neighbourhood is called.


The following paragraphs were added as a comment to this thread by the original author on 5th Jan 2013. Since they cover key issues, and I have been told the comment is hard to find, I have copied them in below:

Having picked up on Alan's suggestion to refer to the legal situation for changing an area's name, a relatively quick spin through sources available has turned up some interesting information.

1. A neighbourhood name has no legal status.

2. The closest approximation for any legal status is contained in quasi-legal or "official" gazettes, such as the Royal Mail's PAF Gazette.

However, even though the information they contain is official rather than legal, it's fascinating to see what lengths the Royal Mail has to go to in order to change the name of a neighbourhood.

Their guidance details a three month consultation process in order to allow changing the name of a neighbourhood in its gazette. The process includes writing to every address affected as well as the MP and other official bodies.

3. Street names and numbers are governed by law, as Alan was told. The relevant legislation is the Public Health Acts Amendment Act of 1907. It says:

The local authority may, with the consent of two-thirds in number of the ratepayers, and persons who are liable to pay an amount in respect of council tax, in any street, alter the name of such street or any part of such street.

So, there is no law that governs the naming of neighbourhoods, but there are principles of justice aplenty that should guide the Council in how it behaves in a situation when it seeks to change an area's name.

As Planning Organisation, Planning Sanity puts it, a neighbourhood is:

" an area where inhabitants live and that it is their state of mind as to what constitutes their neighbourhood. A neighbourhood should not be seen to correspond to any legal or physical division, but more as a social concept, the evidence for which may be given by the people who live there."

If we take as a precedent the principles enshrined both in law and official practice and the opinion of urban experts, I can find no precedent or reference to any principle of justice which suggests that a name change can or should be imposed from above by a person, group of persons or body. At every turn I find evidence confirming my belief that the naming of a neighbourhood belongs to the people who inhabit it and should only be changed with painstaking consultation. It seems extraordinary then that any elected member or officer should even be considering  taking it upon themselves or a small semi-official body to rename a neighbourhood however well meaning might be their intent.

In other areas where a change has been sought, consultations have been the norm. Staines is the most recent example.

It's difficult not to wonder, if a Council is prepared to cut corners on allowing local people self-determintaion in less weighty situations such as this, where else are such 'efficiencies' made at the cost of democratic justice?

I remain convinced that unless and until we have a proper process whereby local residents approve a change, the Council should in all documents refer to Harringay as Harringay. 

Tags for Forum Posts: glsg, harringay name

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Dear Hugh,

I'm with you about keeping Harringay Harringay.    

To add Harringay Green Lanes would confuse visitors with the train station of that name.   l am totally against Harringay Village.   This was mooted about a decade ago and I wrote a letter against it to the Haringey local paper of the time.   Although this is a friendly area, a village it is definitely not and any attempts to ruralise an urban area should be strongly resisted.

Best wishes for a Happy 2013,

Louisa Spivack

Well I've hassled Nilgun on twitter over this and she said I was being rude which was "no way to take things forward"/"continue to have the wool pulled over your eyes". I suspect she objected to being called peasants. Fear not Nilgun, it wasn't just aimed at you, the plural gave it away.

Would it help me make my point if I made threats like others do?

"Peasant" seems to be a word you favour, John. I've always assumed that as a socialist, you intended it simply as a compliment. Ascribing to someone the virtues of that traditional class of small farmers, labourers and artisans; for millennia the backbone of rural societies across the globe.

Since in Turkey today many such people grow some of the high quality produce on sale in our own local independent stores, I would hope that my colleague would warmly welcome your description.

Though I have to tell you that if you use this term about me or my own forebears, while I will enjoy your fawning flattery it will not sway my judgement one jot.

In addition to Alan's concerns, John, my deepest respect as the offspring of a long line of hardy peasantry must be for the 80,000 poppy growing peasants from Ankara to Yozgat who struggle annually to grow high quality produce from the most delicate plant cultivated by man. Those of you who prefer wearing an imitation bloom on sleeve or lapel in a charade of remembrance simply have no idea that the point of the poppy is the lethe of forgetfulness. Without the unending toil of those Turkish peasants, my pipe would often remain unfilled and my dreams unfulfilled.

I think peasants can be nice people, look at me. A good local example of peasantry is our dilapidated high street. Please note the difference.

Read it.

I don't have an issue Harringay Green Lanes, it verbally differentiates from the other Haringey. I use both, Harringay first and usually HGL to a taxi driver or when trying to describe in more detail where it is. It's no different to names such as Stoke-on-Trent, Bradford-upon-Avon etc Times change and sometimes place names are altered (Arsenal/Gillespie Road).

Hugh, do you include yourself in those unelected that attend GLSG meetings/gatherings which I think you have attended occasionally. Most of the individuals who are members of the GLSG have been elected via council elections, RA and so on. If you are going to dig at local democracy then you leave yourself/HOL wide open. I'm not being difficult, it's a little hypercritical do you not think?

Birdy, I'd prefer focus on the broader issue rather than a small part of it, but since you asked about the GLSG, let me start by saying that I believe that the majority of the work the GLSG does has been beneficial, and we all have cause to be grateful to its members.  

And, no I don't include myself amongst its number, Birdy. I'm invited along sometimes to parts of the meetings and I'm pleased to attend. One of my constant requests when I'm there, much to the apparent annoyance of one or two of the members, is for more openness and greater influence by people beyond the group. Let's take the recent regeneration. I tried from the off to get more locals involved from the start so more people would have a greater influence. Quite apart from creating a more inclusive process, there's such a wealth of relevant talent locally, including planners, urban designers, architects, retail experts and so on. Why not involve all this expertise?

As to the democratic nature of the group, do you know who attends any particular meeting? Beyond the councillors, do you know just how many people elected the others to give them the right to represent you? Do you know anything about the decision-making process involved? Do you know what's discussed each time? Are you given the opportunity to input your views a a stage when they can make a real difference?

Most of the decisions taken that affect Harringay specifically are taken at the GLSG where in other areas they are taken at the Area Forum. Indeed at one recent forum a GLSG representative responded to a resident question by saying he would refer the matter "up to the GLSG". It acts as a self-appointed neighbourhood executive, yet it operates without transparency and published no minutes.

For my part, Birdy, I prefer my democracy to be open, inclusive and accountable. The sort of issue about which I wrote this post is the sort of issue that should not be decided by a cabal behind closed doors. Take the principle involved and scale it up to city or national level. Would you argue that an 'executive group' would have the right to decide the name of a city, region or country?

To finish, let me reiterate that I welcome the good work the group has done and thank the members who do it. My issue is that I would like to see it operate more openly and accountably.

I think most groups, RA, and websites locally do a lot of good for the community, that is without doubt. HOL (privately owned and run) as an online hub isn't in any way shape or form democratic either so to criticise another a undemocratic group in the community is in my humble opinion being hypercritical. You and others may see it differently. Why should any undemocratic position have any sway, influence or representation?

Don't get me wrong HOL is a brilliant asset to Harringay Green Lanes :) but it doesn't represent the residents democratically, it's a voice box and until HOL is in some way democratic then I think there will always be that cold shoulder from many of those who are elected in the community.

Not awkward, just an alternative opinion to how the GLSG may see HOL. Apologies for hijacking the thread.

No awkwardness perceived, Birdy, but I think you're misunderstanding my point. I'm not asking for any rights or influence for HoL. I'm asking for an open process to put the question in the hands of local people. I think that would inevitably need to be completely separate to HoL.

In so far as whether it is right for me/HoL to raise questions about the democratic process and other issues locally, it seems that we may disagree. I think that it's a wholly appropriate function for a site like HoL to fulfil. 

Birdy, HoL doesn't decide anything or "do" anything. It is just a website. There is no need for it to be democratic but there is a need for it to be open, which as much as it can be, it is.

John, It tries to have influence and pushes for change, which is great and worthwhile. Anything that says it represents a lump of people and their opinions must be democratically endorsed in my opinion. It isn't and that is why it will always have limited sway to the decision makers. If HOL is asking for more democracy and transparency locally then it needs to lead by example, just my opinion like........



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