Following last week’s posts, we are now two days into Week Two of the Public Inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Order for Wards Corner.
Tuesday was largely taken up with Grainger’s witness on the viability of the market, in both the planned Grainger schemes and in the Community restoration plan. There was much discussion of costs per square foot in rent in the various options, with forensic analysis and projections. The rents will be temporarily slightly reduced by the S106 order in the Grainger plan, this follows Boris Johnson’s intervention in 2008 after he visited the market and the boarded-up upstairs space the day before the mayoral elections. Grainger’s plans at that stage did not mention the market, they thought they could just bulldoze the lot and throw up a pile of nice chain stores – eg Woolworths, BHS, JJB Sports, Comet, HMV, Barratts, Blockbuster… Boris promised on that visit to bring in moves to save the market, he won the mayorship the next day and imposed the S106 agreement on the plan that meant Grainger has to replace the market in any new scheme. Grainger’s current plan is to decant the market into the Apex tower (across the road) once it’s built, bulldoze the Wards town centre then move the market back into the rebuilt block, in a special bit along the Seven Sisters Road edge. This would take about five years all in. (The demolition of the old Apex House Customer Services LBH building is almost complete, this is the LBH land that the council sold to Grainger for £3.4million, that’s 0.47 hectares of prime brownfield site 20 yards from one of the best tube lines in London. We still haven’t seen the district auditor’s report on how this was the right price, especially as it did not go to competitive tender.)
I digress…. we do not believe the market will survive this, especially two moves both with higher rents than now. So all the discussion about rents is crucial, if the Inspector can see that the market will not survive, the CPO will fail.
The Grainger rep also had a go at the numbers for the Community Plan. As the financial details in that are (a) about six years old and (b) were deliberately lacking in detail at the time, as we had to get our plan together very fast to enable it to get planning permission in good time, it was a bit silly of him to try to dissect them. He had not understood that the Community Plan would be non-profit and so would not be needing to match Grainger’s 20% profit margins, for example.
So that was all the Grainger /LBH side delivered. Now it’s our turn. We are damned impressive even if I’m a little partisan. Yesterday we heard from Dr Sara Gonzalez, Associate Professor at Leeds University who specialises in urban regeneration in and around retail spaces. Today our barrister Monica Feria Tinta made her opening remarks, then Carlos Burgos spoke of the evolution of the Latin market and its meaning to the Latin American people who use it, then the growth of the campaign to save it and the expansion of that into the WCC coalition that includes a far wider population. Michael Edwards, a local resident who is Honorary Professor at UCL, spoke on the various London Plans and their relevance to the Grainger and WCC plans. Abigail Stevenson, architectural designer of the Community Plan, showed our plan and how it can work to restore the market space and open the boarded-up 2500 square metres of space above. Myfanwy Taylor spoke on her PhD research into urban planning and economic diversity and how the Council’s developer-led planning fails the people who are already here.
Tomorrow there will be more academic presentations plus the first of the market traders who will telling their stories then and on Friday.
You can read the statements supplied by the objectors here. Many of these make fascinating reading. The Inquiry is not a reading of these written pieces, it’s to give a chance to the objectors to elaborate on and discuss those statements.