Our understanding and perception of areas within a big urban territory like London are influenced by several factors. In the London area we particularly tend to associate places with different ethnic groups as well as with the information the media provide about places.
Especially after the “Five Days in August” in 2011 some parts of London, such as Tottenham in the London Borough of Haringey, became important starting points to bring to the attention of the public several questions of social concern such as levels of employment and safety in the city. In Tottenham’s case the public institutions and the local communities have tried to respond with a real commitment to change character and quality of the area. In a report of the official inquiry into the English riots of August 2011 (Riots Communities and Victims Panel) the local community was addressing questions about the future development of the places affected such as: how can we give young people the opportunity to improve their lives? Or, how can commercial brands use their influence positively for the good of communities?
To respond to these and other questions several actions and projects have started. Efforts to improve the accessibility and mobility in the area with intervention on the transportation system have been planned. Only last week full plans have been revealed about the massive project that aims at completely redeveloping the Tottenham area by 2025 with an urban masterplan signed by global engineering and design firm Arup.
The urban project launched by Haringey Council and Greater London Authority (GLA) is ambitious and spans from a broad conceptual spatial framework to more specific and focused proposals for sub-areas of the territory such as Tottenham Hale, High Road West, Northumberland Park, Tottenham Green and Seven Sisters, and Bruce Grove. Mainly focused on the characteristics of accessibility via improved transportation, diversity – already given by the existing demography and increased by the education and leisure activities proposed – and future jobs opportunities, the urban project aims at delivering an outstanding growth of the area with 5,000 new jobs, 10,000 new homes (between new construction and estate renewal programme) and more than 1million sqft. of new employment and commercial space.
The project has many private and public sponsors and includes a £500m borrowing guarantee for housing and transportation system, a Transport for London £20m investment for redevelopment of Tottenham Hale tube, rail and bus station and Tottenham Hotspur FC’s £430m investment in a stadium redevelopment scheme. In particular the stadium and Tottenham Hale station will become new landmarks and focal points of the scheme. Another important part of the plan is the transformation of Northumberland Park into one of the greatest opportunities for economic growth in London. The plan also includes increased accessibility to the Lee Valley Park and the location of the new Tottenham University Technology College (sponsored by Tottenham Hotspur FC, Middlesex University and other businesses), which will open its doors in September 2014.
What is usually at stake in urban regeneration projects like the one for Tottenham is whether the intervention will restructure the area offering real opportunities for the residents for a change in lifestyle and improved living conditions or if we are facing another gentrification process, which aims at replacing the current residents, business and activities with high-end brand retailers and unaffordable housing (clean-up operations such as the one in the King’s Cross area in the 1990s). So far though, it seems some of the fundamental objectives and former actions (such as the fact that the programme has been developed with close consultation of more than 3,700 Tottenham residents) are going in the right direction and even if unavoidably there will be private interests in the large growth of the area the plan offers promising outcomes.
Finally, another challenge for the future development in North London will be the proximity with the Olympic Park/Stratford area, which after the Games has only partly met the economic growth expectations. This proximity could reveal beneficial for both areas for a more integrated approach of economic growth where the two programmes can support and facilitate each other success.
What are the effects of such massive intervention in the Tottenham area (and on the broader context of the city) in the future?