Haringey Council have set out plans for a wholesale transformation of Wood Green town centre, with landmarks such as the Civic Centre, the bus depot, the Library, and Shopping City all destined for the wrecking ball. A bold move? Or an ill-advised one?
It may already be ill-starred, as the National Infrastructure Commission have lately put a spoke in the wheel – recommending that Crossrail 2 bypass Wood Green and Turnpike Lane altogether (saving the rail project over £4 billion). But the Wood Green – sorry, “Capital of Haringey” (sic.) – juggernaut will crush all before it for a while yet.
So how does the Wood Green project look from over here? Does Crouch End care? Now that the Marks & Spencers has gone, do we still shop there? The Neighbourhood Forum took aim over the railway line and fired off some (helpful) comments –
To Haringey Council’s Wood Green consultation dept.
Wood Green Proposals
As a metropolitan centre, Wood Green offers a significant commercial and retail amenity to all the residents of Haringey. It provides thousands of job and training opportunities in the Borough and should remain a key feature of the overall Haringey economy. It is clear however that the area has been in decline in recent years, faced with competition from other centres (Westfield, Brent Cross, etc.), the withdrawal of several large high street retailers, as well as changing shopping patterns as people transfer their spending power to online businesses.
The proposed transformation of Wood Green, and in particular the suggestions made in the Option 4 preferred option, are very significant and enormously disruptive. We are concerned that a single consultative exercise which contains such wide ranging and complex proposals is difficult for the community to meaningfully respond to. We would support an open assessment of the consultation which seeks to measure the soundness of the exercise, and the depth of local understanding.
We are concerned that a lot of the thinking underpinning the proposals does not necessarily reflect the future retail environment. The rise of online shopping and home delivery are reducing retail footfall, and key retail chains are showing less propensity for new developments. Option 4 (preferred option) postulates wholesale relocation of services, of large businesses such as Morrison’s, and massive re-construction. We feel that the impact of such an unrelenting transformation would create an unattractive and chaotic environment, the disruptive effects of which militate against achieving the ultimate vision. It is quite possible that district centres like Crouch End would be affected by such uncertainty (see below). We would therefore wish to see robust retail analysis to assess the adequacy of such proposals, particularly options 3 & 4.
The plans for indicative building heights, particularly for options 3 & 4, indicate a building with a height of 25 storeys, or 35 in the case of (4), together with a large number of tall 10-15 storey buildings, including one of 15 storeys at the extreme west of the area at the Penstock Tunnel. We are concerned that these developments will adversely affect the setting of Alexandra Palace & Park as the successful ongoing redevelopment of the Palace as a key venue is enhanced by its unique setting and vista. Borough ratepayers have supported the very significant £50m+ costs of Alexandra Palace over many years, and feel the opportunity of finally realising the benefit could be spoiled by unsympathetic developments such as this. Although this type of development has been fashionable (vide Woodberry Down), there is not yet sufficient evidence that it is necessary, or indeed desirable, in creating a “reinvented and extended Town Centre … that is authentic and individual with a sense of fun….”.
The location of the Crossrail 2 station is important to all areas of the Borough. We believe this should be decided by a dedicated transport strategy for the whole Borough, based on robust data, rather than one tailored to the needs of Wood Green. We would wish to see Crossrail stations sited to benefit the maximum number of commuters and travellers. Access at Turnpike Lane benefits transport users in Crouch End, Hornsey and Harringay as it can be easily reached by walking, cycling or by bus. A Crossrail station at Alexandra Palace would benefit the AP development. As a further example, why is no mention made of possible improvements to Hornsey Rail station – which could benefit the SW part of the Wood Green area as well as surrounding districts? We are disappointed that the Council are lobbying TfL to abandon stations in favour of Wood Green without consulting the surrounding communities.
The document repeatedly identifies Wood Green as the Capital of Haringey. We see no reason why this pre-eminence should be assumed or be thought necessary. Wood Green is an important retail destination, and has the opportunity for significant residential growth – neither of which require the Capital nomenclature. This odd presumption is more appropriate to a sales brochure than a planning consultation document, and we are concerned that the implied thinking adds to the sense of Wood Green exceptionalism.
Impact on Crouch End
As a body dedicated to the well being of Crouch End we are naturally aware of the wider effects of a large-scale redevelopment of Wood Green. When the Shopping City was developed in the 1970s, it had a significant impact on the ability of district town centres to compete with the new centre. Many areas like Bruce Grove, Harringay, Hornsey, Stroud Green, Muswell Hill and Crouch End lost a great deal of their comparison shopping and consequently a lot of footfall. This led to many closures and it took more than a decade before Crouch End could be said to have recovered. During that time, many shops remained empty and boarded up and there were significant job losses.
We are concerned that the Council’s intense focus upon Wood Green will repeat the outcomes of the past. We believe that the Council should make reference to the adopted Local Plan to safeguard all surrounding district town centres (below). We note that as presented, all evidence and options within the current WGAAP are discussed and proposed without any meaningful reference to the rest of the Borough. Indeed, the only reference to Crouch End demonstrates a somewhat one dimensional understanding of the relationship:
The catchment area of Wood Green should include affluent neighbourhoods such as Crouch End, Muswell Hill and Highgate. The town centre must attract the patronage of these neighbourhoods in the future …
(p.42, Spatial Development Strategy Options – Generating the Options)
The Haringey Local Plan, under strategic policy SP10, establishes a hierarchy of Town Centres but does not prioritise Wood Green at the expense of the district centres.
The District Town Centres will continue to be supported and strengthened as important shopping and service centres to meet peoples day-to-day needs. The Council will take a proactive partnership approach to reinvigorating these town centres, widening their role and offer, developing their identities, improving the public realm and accessibility to them.
5.3.10 The development of new shops or other town centre uses, particularly if they are large in scale, can have an impact on other centres. The Council will ensure that development in its centres is appropriate to the character, size and role of the centre in which it is located, and does not cause harm to neighbours, the local area or other centres.
We very much support these policy goals and assertions and seek reassurance from the Council that in lavishing a huge amount of energy, resources and attention on the regeneration of Wood Green, it will not lose sight of the strengths and needs of neighbouring district town centres.
To ensure that Crouch End is not disadvantaged by the scheme, it is important that we are fully aware of the possible effects that changes could bring, and that suitable impact assessments are carried out. We hope that any such assessments identify the unique offer of the surrounding district town centres and that safeguards are proposed.
- The Council must offer assurances, based on evidence, that efforts to re-vitalise the Wood Green retail offer will not be at the expense of surrounding town centres.
- We wish to be notified of and given access to all retail, transport, traffic and any other impact studies as they are conducted and when the studies have been completed.
- A Borough wide transport strategy and masterplan is required, rather than one simply dedicated to the requirements of Wood Green. We ask for a further consultation to be carried out, across the Borough, to better determine a Council strategy that serves all areas.
- A particular analysis must be performed that identifies the effect upon Hornsey High Street of a new retail/f&b development in the cultural quarter area.
- We wish to see the setting and views of/from Alexandra Park and Palace safeguarded, and strongly suggest that the proposed development of multiple high rise tower blocks is called in for further consultation.
Crouch End Town Centre
The Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum will be producing proposals for our own town centre in the coming months. In this endeavour we hope to gain the Council’s support in building-in many of the key features of a successful centre identified in the Wood Green Area Action Plan, such as:
The development of a public spaces; the re-vitalisation of streetscapes with wide footpaths and planting; shop front improvements; improved evening economy; support for existing businesses; etc. – including a possible Business Improvement District.
We are fully aware of the necessity for the Council to maximise business rates and council tax receipts in the present climate, and the regeneration of Wood Green is an important factor in this, but suggest that supporting all town centres across the Borough may also be an effective strategy, from new developments in Tottenham Hale to the continued re-vitalisation of existing centres such as Crouch End. Smaller, vibrant, local district centres may offer a robust and sustainable answer to the growth of online retailing.