LONDON, April 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Residents of
one of inner London's poorest boroughs have launched a legal
challenge against plans to demolish 1,300 flats for low-income
families to make way for a 2 billion pound ($2.5 billion)
housing project managed by a private developer.
Residents from Haringey borough said the redevelopment
represents the largest single transfer of local government land
to the private sector in Britain, where gentrification has
changed neighbourhoods at a lightning pace.
The project between Haringey Council and Australian property
giant LendLease, will result in apartment blocks and commercial
properties being bulldozed to build 5,000 new homes and a new
town centre over the next 20 years.
The deal, to be formally signed in July, will create a new
private company owned 50-50 by Haringey Council and Lendlease.
Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober said the project would
create thousands of new homes and jobs with the council
committing to do its "utmost" to allow existing tenants to
return to a new home on the site on similar rents and terms.
But Gordon Peters, one complainant in the legal case, said
the council was "gambling" on a project that lacks community
backing and may not be economically viable in the uncertainty
sparked by Britain's decision to leave the European Union.
"Our argument is they've jumped the gun," he said, referring
to the council's announcement of the deal last month.
"They (the council) are saying (the project) doesn't have to
be voted on," Peters told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"There's a very strong case for challenging that."
Alan Strickland, Haringey Council's head of housing, said
residents would be consulted.
"No land will transfer without prior consultation with local
residents and businesses, as well as going through the usual
planning processes," Strickland told the Thomson Reuters
LendLease did not respond to requests for comment.
London's state-funded social housing blocks, leased at
below-market rates, have become flashpoints in the capital's
Mainly built in the 1960s and 1970s, local authorities have
razed many of the concrete high-rises to erect modern
Residents in Haringey said they feared the area could follow
the example set by LendLease's redevelopment of a housing block
in south London's Elephant and Castle neighbourhood where more
than 90 percent of social housing was lost.
Michael Edwards, professor of planning at University College
London, said rising inflation after the Brexit vote could result
in a crisis comparable to the early 1990s, when massive
developments went bankrupt.
He said the project should be abandoned as the joint venture
with LendLease did not allow for Haringey council to veto any of
its plans and is therefore not able to make any strong promises
Earlier this week official figures showed inflation almost
gnawed away the growth in British workers' pay during the three
months to February, the clearest evidence yet that households
are feeling the strain of rising prices as Brexit negotiations
($1 = 0.7988 pounds)
(Reporting by Matthew Ponsford, Editing by Katie Nguyen; Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.