Questions about McAslan Architects' Agreement with Haringey

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Questions about McAslan Architects' Agreement with Haringey

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Questions about McAslan Architects' Agreement with Haringey famous celebrity quotes
Image by Alan Stanton 10 June 2014. This empty shop at 451/3 High Road - at the corner of Forster Road - was due to become a "Design Studio". Or perhaps a "design hub"? Or perhaps a "regeneration showcase"? Or maybe we'll enjoy a "community facility"? Each of these phrases has been used. According to Haringey Council's website the architects' practice John McAslan + Partners have:  ". . . signed an agreement with Haringey Council on 21 October 2013 to transform an empty shop into a design hub offering work placements and training to local people".  "The N17 Design Studio will work with the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CHENEL) in a pilot project to give local students the chance to learn key skills in apprenticeships."  "Haringey Council will take a five-year lease on the building and refurbish it to create a community facility in the centre of the High Road that will showcase regeneration plans and engage with local people on the future of Tottenham." The Council's website prominently featured a quote from Haringey Council Leader Claire Kober. It was her usual upbeat but empty burble.  "It's fantastic to be welcoming McAslan to Tottenham. Their enthusiasm for the area is testament to its potential to be one of London’s centres for creativity, quality and opportunity.  Equipping our young people with the skills they need to fulfil their potential is at the centre of our regeneration plans for Tottenham, and this studio will help raise aspirations as much as transform an empty building.  Creating new business spaces will help us secure a revitalised High Road that supports our long-term ambition that everyone in Tottenham has the opportunity to succeed and thrive." John McAslan + Partners' website described the "agreement" as a "Memorandum of Understanding" which may or may not be the same thing. It included the same anodyne quote from Cllr Kober. John McAslan is quoted saying that:  “The new design studio will help generate employment and regeneration, creating a forum in Tottenham for the education and future of young people through structured apprenticeships”. CHENEL the third body signing-up to the deal, was represented by Jane O’Neill, Interim Principal and Chief Executive. She said:  “The College is very pleased to partner Haringey Council and JMP to develop the N17 Design Studio, playing such a key role in improving the career choices and achievement of local people. By offering essential training and excellent opportunities for work experience, together we will raise Tottenham’s profile throughout London as a highly desirable location in which to study, work and live.” So nothing much to get your teeth into about what is actually going to happen and be achieved in the hub/studio/ community facility/regeneration showcase. But there were photos and lots of smiles on McAslan's website. More Questions than Answers In general I am very positive about new training opportunities for young people from Tottenham. But I'm also sceptical about the lack of openness in the process which led to this initiative being set up.   Behind the smiles in October 2013, what was announced seems vague, to say the least. And raises lots of questions. To some of which there may be entirely reasonable answers.   For example, why does the plan appear to require a subsidy of public money to McAslan? The firm is described by the Council's website as: "a global architect firm ... with "enthusiasm for the area". So I wonder why this enthusiasm didn't extend to finding a few quid of their own to buy a lease? Why is the Haringey taking - or perhaps had already taken (?) - a five year lease on the premises when the "groundbreaking partnership" is "a 12-month pilot project"?   When will this "partnership" begin. We are already eight months from the signing. Has Haringey bought the lease? When? And costing how much?   In a tweet from Claire Kober on 21 October 2013 she gave the starting date as January 2014. Later, this became Spring 2014; and later still, June 2014. In yet another tweet on 11 June 2014, Claire Kober wrote: "in the Autumn. No date as yet". (Click to view Claire Kober's tweets and replies on the topic .) Starchitect or Celebrity Chef? What will McAslan Architects actually bring to Tottenham and do in their "Design Studio" that they couldn't do as well or better by offering training and "structured apprenticeships" in one of the existing London offices?   How "global" and famous does a starchitect have to be for Haringey to buy them a lease on High Road Tottenham? is there a "level playing field" between McAslan and other firms of architects who might want to get involved? How many other firms from different professions are being invited to discuss signing a "Memorandum of Understanding" with Haringey. What are the listed criteria for our Council to buy leases for international commercial businesses to tempt them to come to Tottenham? Who assessed McAslan and other firms against these criteria and how and when? Or was this perhaps done with a personal introduction?   I even wonder if McAslan been invited simply to lend some glamour and wider confidence to Haringey's planned off-the-shelf, bog-standard towerblock plans. Are McAslans like a celebrity chef hired to lend their endorsement to the schemes cooked-up by others? Some important lunch somewhere with important people, perhaps? The Muswell Hill Colonial Administration The location of the "Design Studio" is in Bruce Grove ward, and some twenty metres across High Road Tottenham from what used to be High Cross ward and now - after the boundaries were redrawn - is Tottenham Hale ward. This is in the part of Tottenham I represented as a councillor for sixteen years. (Until the end of May 2014.) So perhaps you might assume that I would and other councillors would be involved in, consulted, or at least fully informed about regeneration projects like the Design Studio. But that's not how things work in Haringey. Not consulting nor properly informing is typical of how Cllr Claire Kober and her Muswell Hill Colonial administration have treated most Tottenham councillors and local residents during the so-called regeneration after the Tottenham riot in August 2011. Some recent public consultation which did take place proved to be largely a farce. (This is despite the efforts of the agency "Soundings" who carried out the most recent phase of consultation on the Council's behalf. The Council's response to their report confirmed my cynicism.)   Most important, it now appears that what passes for "regeneration" plans in Tottenham will involve an attempt at social cleansing - demolishing publicly-owned housing and displacing many existing residents in order to create more privately owned blocks for middle class people. In my view this has the potential to do far more damage to the existing communities and businesses in Tottenham than the riot ever could.   I'm not suggesting that McAslan architects are in any way complicit in this. But I am concerned that there should be clarity and public transparency about what local young people will be getting; and about the deal between McAslan, Haringey Council and CHENEL.   In general I want to see far greater openness, not simply about this agreement, but the entire process of discussion and negotiation of "regeneration plans" in Tottenham, between Haringey Council, landowners, developers, large businesses and outside consultants,   Too many such discussions have been conducted mainly in secret. The Council leadership and outside bodies and interests have discussed, planned and decided on the future of Tottenham behind the backs and over the heads of people living here. By not properly including local people as full "partners" and listening to and respecting our views and our lives, they treat us and Tottenham as a colony.

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Image by ImagePros During MSNBC's coverage of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte NC. Bryan O'Quinn said, "I have to tell you, I've really strong opinions about a lot of things, and I do not always verbalize these opinions, because regardless of what I believe other people have the right to exists whether it suits my individual scope of the world or not.”