Following the lack of structural strengthening discovered at the Ledbury Estate Large Panel System tower blocks last year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government formally wrote to all local authorities who own Large Panel System blocks and asked them to carry out tests to check that their blocks were sufficiently strengthened.
Broadwater Farm Estate in Haringey was one of the estates that underwent these checks. Earlier this year, Ledbury Action Group requested the structural assessment reports for Broadwater Farm, from Haringey Council. Our request was refused on the basis that the reports were in draft form, but we were told that they would be published on Haringey's website once finalised. At the time of writing this, those documents have still not been shared with residents. We have put in another Freedom of Information request for them.
We have been keeping a close eye on the situation at Broadwater Farm, since the announcement in February that Tangmere and Northolt block don't meet the required standards.
On Monday 18th June, Haringey updated the 'Broadwater Farm' section of their website stating: 'Tangmere residents will need to be found new homes while the future of their block is decided. Cabinet will make a decision on these recommendations next week (Tuesday 26 June).'
Ledbury Action Group received a concerned phone call from our contact at Broadwater Farm who lives in the affected 'Tangmere' block. He told us that National Grid (now Cadent) will be removing the gas supply to the estate in October, and that Haringey have decided that residents from that block will have to move out before then. The Northolt block is likely to be decanted later.
The agenda pack for the upcoming Haringey Cabinet meeting scheduled for 26th June raises several alarming concerns:
- Page 31, section 1.3 states: 'The degree of structural work needed to achieve the required level of safety standards is extremely costly, and this would significantly impact on the funding available to do other necessary works to other Council estates. Residents would also need to be rehoused temporarily to allow the strengthening works to take place. The Council is therefore proposing to consult residents on options for resolving this situation. For the reasons outlined in this report, the Council's preferred option is to demolish the blocks and replace them with high quality, new council homes built on the estate.'
Are Haringey Council genuinely 'consulting' if they've made their preferred plan so clear? How are residents going to be able to make an informed decision on a consultation if Haringey still haven't released the structural assessment reports for residents to read and consider?
- Page 32, section 1.4 states: 'The estimated cost of strengthening Tangmere is £13m...The estimated cost of strengthening Northolt is £12m....Rebuilding the homes in both blocks would also come at a significant cost... in the range of £32m to £54m to rebuild the homes in both blocks...whilst the cost of strengthening would have to be met entirely from the Housing Revenue Account (HRA), new build homes would likely be eligible for external grant.'
Haringey have acknowledged that strengthening Tangmere and Northolt blocks is possible, and cheaper, yet the council are arguing for demolition as it would allow them to access funding.
The Mayor of London's Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration says 'The Mayor supports the principle of mandatory ballots as part of estate regeneration schemes where demolition is involved. He therefore proposes to encourage the wider use of ballots by requiring them as a condition of his funding'
Haringey explain that they are carrying out a 'consultation' on the future of Tangmere and Northolt blocks, but no mention of a ballot. What's also concerning is how clearly Haringey are publicly leaning towards demolition.
- Page 69 discusses tenants moves and Right to Return and states:
'The Rehousing Officer will seek to establish...Whether they wish the move to be permanent or if they wish to return to Broadwater Farm'
These Housing Needs appointments are taking place already, and tenants are being asked to indicate whether or not they want their move to be temporary or permanent - whether they wish to take up the Right To Return, without yet knowing:
- What the Right To Return actually entails
- How long the offer will remain open
- What the terms and conditions of it are, e.g - tenancy type and rent rate
- What they would be returning to
To date, Haringey have not passed an IDM or any similar policy, so there is no formal documentation in place on Right to Return.
-Page 69, section 2.1.3 states: 'The preferences made by each household will affect how quickly a new home can be found and the Council will be under no duty to meet preferences where a suitable home is unlikely to become available quickly enough.' - How likely are Haringey to meet the preferences of all Tangmere tenants between now and October?
2.2.1 states: 'New homes will be offered to tenants on the basis of their housing need which is set out in Section 8 of the Housing Allocation Policy...but those who are under-occupying their home by two or more bedrooms maybe able to retain a spare bedroom in line with the Council‟s Under-Occupation Policy' - Will those under-occupying by just one bedroom be forced to downsize?
Page 62 states: 'Decant accommodation means a secure tenancy of a Council property or an Assured or Assured Shorthold Tenancy if in housing association stock. In each case the property will be suitable to the tenant‟s needs. Decant accommodation may not become available for all those to be decanted before October 2018. So far as possible, tenants will be made a “single move” offer straight into their decant accommodation. Where this is not possible, the Council will seek to minimise the time spent by tenants in other forms of accommodation (such as hotel or suitable private sector accommodation) before decant accommodation becomes available. Because of the urgency of the situation the Council may need to serve notices seeking possession and will thereafter seek possession where necessary under Ground 10 and provide suitable decant accommodation.'
Page 63 states: 'All offers of housing will be made by a direct offer. Given the urgency to move tenants, households will only receive one suitable offer which they must not unreasonably refuse'
In short, if residents refuse a offer of decant accommodation which Haringey deem as 'reasonable', the council have stated that they may serve possession notices and evict tenants, potentially into hotel/B&B accommodation'.
- Page 34, section 3.1 (b) and (c) state:
'(b) Piped gas will be removed from the block at the end of October 2018 and as such there will be no supply of heating and hot water to the block after this date, and (c) It is necessary to rehouse residents temporarily even if a decision is made to strengthen Tangmere.'
Southwark Council managed to install a brand new district heating system to the four Ledbury Estate tower blocks in just 6 weeks after gas was removed. The same could be done now for Tangmere, meaning residents who do not wish to move, wouldn't have to be rushed out so quickly.
Ledbury Action Group believe firmly that Haringey are obliged to give due consideration to any reasonable alternative step which would allow them to avoid forcing residents to leave by October. As such, we actively encourage Haringey to contact their counterparts in Southwark to find out more about installing a new heating system to make this possible.
Tangmere and Northolt residents now have access to legal advice and are being supported by housing campaigners and activists around London. After Stop HDV managed to save Broadwater Farm from potential demolition just last year, residents of Tangmere and Northolt are facing a new crisis and we will continue to support them as best we can.
If you would like to be put in touch directly with our contacts at Broadwater Farm, please do send us a message via the Contact Page.