David Lammy said Tottenham was synonymous with two things: its (under-performing) football club, which won the league championship back in 1961, the second and, so far, last time it finished top of the pile – and riots. Ossie Ardiles and burning cars, in other words.
The 40-year-old local MP told assembled dignitaries, including Lord Heseltine, London mayor Boris Johnson, developer Stuart Lipton (of which more in a minute) and Spurs chairman Daniel Levy that the launch of a report by the Independent Panel on Tottenham was one of the area’s most important days.
The report was commissioned by Johnson in the wake of last summer’s riots which began in Tottenham but which fanned out to other parts of the capital and, eventually, other parts of the country.
The main recommendation of the panel, which was chaired by Lipton, was that a Tottenham-specific regeneration panel should be set up. This will concentrate on making transport links better, improving public realm and boosting employment opportunities.
The title of the report is ‘It Took Another Riot’ which probably sums it all up. Without last summer’s event would anything have happened? Lipton, who admitted he had rarely visited Tottenham in the past apart from the occasional visit to watch his team Arsenal play at White Hart Lane, was shocked at what he saw when he began his investigations.
Any regeneration needs money and there isn’t much of it about, Lipton says. He adds there are too many shops in Tottenham. “They need to be compacted down.” What’s striking about Tottenham is that there doesn’t appear to be definitive centre. Lipton wants to change that and thinks architects can help.
He wants architects to be bolder and be engaged with a regeneration scheme like Tottenham. “Architects need to educate these clients to do better.” There were, he was saying, too many architecturally poor buildings in Tottenham.
As well as cash, the other problem is planning. “We have the best group of architects in the world but one of the most difficult planning systems in the world,” Lipton says. Johnson thinks it will take the best in the public and private sectors to get things going. “That produced the extraordinary Olympic Park.”
Tottenham, though, is no London 2012. It’s clear Lipton has developed a genuine affection for the area and he has agreed to stay on and, time permitting, help out in the future. This week was a start but long term regeneration will take a while yet.