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Post-riot report: Skilled architects key to Tottenham’s revival

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High quality architecture is among the key recommendations of an independent report into the regeneration of Tottenham in north London

The report – convened by the Mayor of London following last summer’s unprecedented riots – said the deprived district must have ‘architecturally ambitious’ developments by ‘skilled architects’ to improve.

Chaired by Chelsfield boss Stuart Lipton, it argued an independent regeneration body was needed for the area which had consistently failed to benefit from previous regeneration attempts.

It also called for improved public realm, ‘high-grade retail offerings’, higher density mixed tenure housing and measures to tackle the area’s transient population.

New developments must be architecturally ambitious

It said: ‘New developments must be architecturally ambitious and not “second best”. High-quality urban centres need establishing in Tottenham Hale, the Green and the area around the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium to bring new jobs and create safe, social places for locals and visitors.’

‘Soft infrastructure’ such as coffee shops, banks, chemists and gyms could coax employment to the area while improved retail would attract visitors from other districts, the report claimed.

The ‘substantial regeneration’ of the area’s existing housing was called for as part an ‘extensive estate renewal’ programme aimed at sweeping away environments which ‘contribute to cultures of poverty and low aspiration’.

Successive governments were meanwhile blamed for focussing on high-profile regenerations like The Docklands, East Manchester, Liverpool and Stratford at the expense of other deprived areas such as Tottenham which were expected to be solved locally by economic growth.

 The report singled out ‘governmental neglect’ for the Tottenham’s decline which was made worse by unemployment, lack of civic facilities, overcrowded housing and inadequate policing.

Previous attempts to regenerate the area were meanwhile said to have failed, including £30 million spent following the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots on demolishing walkways and redecoration.

London mayor Boris Johnson welcomed the report, explaining he would look closely at the ‘compelling’ proposal for a regeneration organisation focussing on Tottenham.

Oxford Brookes senior lecturer in architecture Harriet Harriss however suggested it would take more than ‘another Westfield style satellite’ to solve ‘the social and economic challenges facing the “resilient” and “complex” people of Tottenham.’ 

She warned: ‘A regeneration strategy that increases rather than addresses economic disparity – the gap between the rich and poor – simply exacerbates these challenges and perhaps even risks a repeat of the 2011 riots.’

Wendy Pullan of the University of Cambridge – who recently published a major report on conflict cities – questioned whether the proposals went beyond ‘an architectural recipe for any run-down or depressed area.’

She said:  ‘The obvious concern is that “ambitious” architecture may be expensive architecture that doesn’t benefit or forces out the local population. Conflict in Cities research shows that in some cases, high profile architecture may further divide communities.’

She added: ‘Rather than the knee-jerk reaction of more shops, cafes and gyms, regeneration needs to relate to the particular situation: the neighbourhoods should be studied on the ground, architectural solutions must be considered in the context of social, political and economic problems, and local populations invited to make their needs clear.’


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