Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tottenham Community Rallies to Save Historic Market

On Thursday 26th July the Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC) launches their exciting community-led plan to regenerate Seven Sisters indoor market in a further show of defiance against Haringey Council and developer Grainger PLC's plans to demolish this much loved community asset.

The Wards Corner market building has been an icon of Seven Sisters since it first opened for business in the early 1900s. The elegant, steel-frame, red-brick structure housed Wards Furnishing Stores, a classic London department store, until it closed in 1972.

Today Wards Corner is the home of a diverse and bustling local market, including London's most vibrant cluster of Latin-American traders.

Dark Clouds over Wards Corner

On 25th June 2012, after years of controversy and community outcry, Haringey Council backed with a 5-4 vote a plan led by one of the UK's biggest landlords, Grainger PLC, to demolish the building and replace it with a residential and commercial development which would be prohibitively expensive for the existing occupants to return to. Haringey Council is a development partner of Grainger on the project, and has been unresponsive to the concerns of local residents.

Mrs Malti Patel has been running a successful shop on West Green Road, part of the coveted development site at Seven Sisters tube for 30 years, but now feels fearful and betrayed. “The council should be protecting hard-working, honest people like me, but I am being ignored. I will lose my business, my job, my friends, my security and my home,” she said.

The Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC), a campaigning group formed by local residents and traders, has been fighting this one-size-fits-all planning approach since 2007. In an early WCC victory for the community, a judicial review and court of appeals ruling quashed an earlier plan by Grainger in 2010.Then, with huge public support including over 2000 signatures from local traders and residents, and in collaboration with  Planning Aid for London, English Heritage, Friends of the Earth and the Federation of Small Businesses, they managed to see off another version of the same project by the developer in July 2011.

The Community Plan

In defiance of Grainger’s planning approval for demolition, the community proposes an alternative plan based on restoration and developing the area’s existing character and strengths. WCC propose to restore the heritage character of the building and retain the existing market and small businesses whilst providing for new retail and restaurant space, an art gallery, performance space and a community room for events and meetings. WCC also foresees a wider regeneration of the area creating new affordable housing on the site around the market and bringing empty buildings back into use, addressing the goals set out in the original development brief.

Abigail Stevenson, an architectural designer who has worked with the WCC to develop the new Community Plan, stresses the need for planning to engage with and reflect the wishes of the local community. “A community-led alternative would be much better and more appropriate,” says Stevenson. “Architecture is not just about building buildings. You have to engage with people, because if people aren't on board with your ideas, they're not going to work.”

Local resident Candy Amsden, who is a long-time member of the Wards Corner Community Coalition, remembers well her first impressions on entering the Edwardian building:

“I saw this amazing space, and an amazing possibility. There's a set of sky-lights with beautiful cornicing and light just pours in around the pillars inside,” she said.

Amsden sees the Community Plan as a way to foster local enterprise in post-riots Tottenham.

"Small businesses will use other small businesses, they'll use the local accountant, local suppliers. Tesco's and Sainsbury's won't do that," she said.

WCC continues to make their case for community-led development with the plan’s public unveiling this week in Tottenham, which will focus on gathering further feedback and questions from local residents and traders through open small-group discussion.

The Community Plan application has been submitted to the Haringey Council planning authorities, and will be launched publicly at Tottenham Chances at 7pm on Thursday 26th July.

+44 (0)7908 705 377

For info on the community plan including images:

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