The Tottenham Model
Community Wealth Building in Tottenham
Community Wealth Building is drawn from the work of the Democracy Collaborative in Cleveland, Ohio, and has been developed and extended through the work of Preston council in Lancashire. What has come to be known as “The Preston Model” looks to localises economic development, particularly through the procurement of “anchor institutions” (hospitals, universities, council buildings etc.), locking down capital flows out of the local economy. Where local businesses cannot fill the gaps in that procurement, the establishment of worker owned cooperatives is encouraged. Inspired greatly by the cooperative ecology of Mondragon in the Basque Country, the Preston Model looks to rethink models of ownership and economic participation. Using the institutional powers of the council it develops innovative ways to ensure a fairer, more inclusive economy for all.
Preston showed the joint second biggest improvement in its position on the multiple deprivation index between 2010 and 2015, and was voted the best city to live and work in North West England in 2016. Spending within Preston has gone up from 5% in 2013 to 18.2% in 2017 (or by £74,750,857.47).
At The World Transformed festival 2019, the Save Latin Village campaign is organising a session entitled “Latin Village and The Tottenham Model: Community Wealth Building from below”. The session represents a marker in an ongoing project of inquiry into establishing the potential for community wealth building strategies to emerge, not just inside council offices, but from community self organisation and struggle. Alongside Haringey StART members and Peacock Estate workers, Save Latin Village mobilises the “Tottenham Model” to compose different grassroots projects in Tottenham around the common shared principles of self determination and direct democratic control. It takes as a starting point the new economic common sense constructed in Preston, centering everyday workers, tenants and community members as the main actors in the actualisation of social change.
When the community came together to defeat the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), and with the election of what was described as “the first Corbyn council”, hopes were high for the end of gentrification through dispossession. From StART’s experience with the obstinance of the GLA; Peacock Estate’s struggle against the Tottenham F.C. regen; and Wards Corner Market’s pitched battle with Graniger PLC and Quarterbridge (as sanctioned by TFL and Haringey Council), the ballot box is clearly not enough to defend and extend community development. The Tottenham Model proactively stakes a claim to ‘the right to the city’ through developing self-organised, community centred and driven urban development. It approaches “community wealth building” from a new angle, discussing the radical potential of urban development from below.
Social and Economic Value
Seven Sisters Indoor Market is a unique place, providing not only economic benefits to the local area but also a social and cultural value that is part of the everyday life of traders and customers.
Our research, undertaken at the market in June 2019 with traders and customers, highlighted some key findings:
- The market is active: stall occupancy is 100%, significantly more than the national average for indoor markets (83%) or for the markets in general (77%)
- People significantly rely on the market: on average, business owners have been trading there for more than 9 years and are financially responsible for 4.2 people.
- The market benefits the local economy with customers visiting the Seven Sisters area from as far as 10 miles. Over half visit other local shops and amenities.
- The market provides a wide range of affordable and qualitative products and services. The market's products and services are on average 44% cheaper than the surrounding areas.
- The market acts as a social and cultural hub: almost 90% of the customers claim to have social interactions with the traders, while 100% of them claiming to socially interact with customers from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds.
- The market matters to people working there: 100% of the traders interviewed said that being based in the market was an asset for their business, while 89% of them consider it ‘strongly’ or ‘very strongly’ irreplaceable.
As has been evident since 2007, when Grainger’s unveiled their first proposal for the site, the vision of the developer is one characterised by a failure to understand or respond to its local context and standing in opposition to the specific needs of the Seven Sisters community. As local communities face displacement, the developer and its partners continue to peddle the false promises of regeneration as benefitting those whom it displaces.
Grainger’s proposals for Apex House and Seven Sisters are outdated and fail to respond to the current needs of Londoners - featuring no social or ‘living rent’ tenancies, the threat to independent and SME businesses and the potential displacement of BAME and other protected communities. The scheme has not developed since inception, repeating the mistakes of over a decade failed regeneration schemes such as the Heygate Estate. We contend the scheme reflects a myopic vision of what is possible - a development we do not need in London today.
In July 2017, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights published a statement condemning the development of the Seven Sisters Indoor Market as a threat to the ‘right to cultural life’. The report was damning of the regeneration process and resulted in major negative media exposure for Grainger and the Wards Corner development, with outlets such as Channel 4 running 15-minute segments in their prime-time news programming. In their statement, the UN human rights experts said:
“The regeneration project would force their activities to stop or relocate. This has a disproportionate impact on people belonging to minorities and their right to equal participation in economic, social and cultural rights.”
“The destruction of the market and scattering of the small businesses to other premises would not only seriously affect the economic situation of the people working there, but it would also make this cultural life simply disappear.”
The United Nations reiterated these conclusions in 2019, presenting a serious risk of further reputational damage for Grainger should the scheme go ahead.
Quarterbridge -MAM - The Current Market Operators
Supporting developer Grainger on their mission to demolish the market are Quarterbridge and Market Asset Management (MAM). Quarterbridge was hired as a consultant to help draw up the Seven Sisters market redevelopment plan. Market Asset Management (MAM) Seven Sisters now runs the market – and is set to win the lease on the redeveloped site too. Both companies are owned by two Essex-based businessmen called Raymond Linch and Jonathan Owen.
A report by investigative journalists Corporate Watch uncovered the following:
“Owen and Linch have been making handsome profits from Seven Sisters market. They have transferred an average of £100,000 a year of traders’ rental income between their companies.
After numerous complaints from traders, Jonathan Owen has been forced to apologise for behaviour that included threatening language and racial slurs. Despite this, so far Quarterbridge-MAM has kept its lease to run Seven Sisters market and is slated to run the new market in Grainger’s development.
Quarterbridge-MAM have used the same basic model in other UK cities: one part of the business advises councils on “redevelopment” plans; then another angles for lucrative contracts running the revamped markets.
But things don’t always go their way. At least two councils, Leeds and Rochdale, have dropped projects with Quarterbridge-MAM. Leeds’ council leader decided: “We aren’t spending millions of pounds to lose it to a private company.” Rochdale Borough Council concluded they weren’t “the right people to run our cherished market”.
Quarterbridge-MAM is looking to buy up more markets. To fund expansion, it is now being bankrolled by Places for People, one of the UK’s biggest landlords and housing associations. Last year, Places for People took a 50% stake in Market Asset Management Ltd. This was likely arranged by Places for People’s chairman, Chris Phillips, who works alongside Owen and Linch as a MAM director.”
The turbulent history of Quarterbridge-MAM’s management of the market continues to this day: following previous complaints to landowners TfL over the use of racist and abusive language, on the 23rd August 2019, rents were hiked by as much as 28% with one week’s notice and traders had their licences suspended.
This pattern of behaviour strongly suggests their intentions are to manage the continued decline of the market, making the situation untenable for current traders to push through demolition of the building.
Public Commons Partnerships
For decades, local authorities and central government have been selling off public land & assets whilst signing extortionate contracts with a private sector that fails to deliver. Public-Common Partnerships (PCPs) offer us an alternative, not only to the market-driven ideology that has asset stripped our communities, but to the centralised command-and-control approach that came before it.
At their core, a PCP is a joint enterprise between government (which in the case of Wards Corner means Haringey Council, with the support of the Mayor of London) and a legally constituted group acting in the common interest (a Commoners Association). As co-owners of the assets - the land and building of Wards Corner market - they form an executive board that is jointly responsible for its governance. The board is also comprised of other key interest groups, such as the local residents association, which although not owners have a direct interest in the functioning of the market. This governance board brings together the lived experience and knowledge of those that run the market day to day, the common interest of the market’s users and those most immediately affected by it, and the ‘big picture’ strategy that government must provide on issues such as implementing a Green New Deal.
However, we can’t think of Public-Common Partnerships in isolation. Whilst part of the financial surplus generated by Wards Corner will necessarily be reinvested into the upkeep of the market itself, the substantial remainder will be transferred to the Commoners Association. The Commoners Association act as trustees of this fund, and have the responsibility for its democratic reallocation in support of other PCPs both in the UK and abroad. Understood as a circuit or ecosystem, PCPs have an exponential potential to provide the finance needed to bring an ever greater proportion of our utilities, services and assets under the control of the communities that use them.