The developers of Heartlands, part of Wood Green’s new western flank and future home to 3500 households, some of the borough’s tallest buildings and a whole new business district, have submitted bold plans establishing the feasibility of bringing the river back to the surface as the centre piece to their 10 year plan to transform the area’s fortunes. This is no reconstruction of the river’s arcadian past: it’s a spirited interpretation of river and urban renewal, with space for nature and our industrial past as well as for leisure; there is room for the environmentalists and romantics as well as the pragmatists and creatives.
The opportunity is unlikely to present itself again. Under pressure from Haringey, the area’s industrial heritage has been scandalously squandered and its nature tossed aside in preference to pretentious aspirations to create a new ‘capital’ for the borough.
The gains from restoring the river have long been ignored by Haringey along with policy and advice of Government and the Environment Agency. Instead, they feigned ignorance, avoided their responsibilities, propagated misinformation and even been its greatest polluter.
The good news is that there are signs of a change of heart and even a willingness to work with others to bring back the river and raise Heartlands from the bland to the remarkable; from just the next clone estate to a place that people will talk about and want to visit as well as live and work.
So back to the question, ‘what’s stopping it?’ There are, as you might guess practical issues and political issues: all are solvable:
- The current planning permission requires an inappropriately high standard of water quality to be achieved before the consideration is given to restoring the river. When it granted planning permission, Haringey set the standard as that of bathing water: no other river in London is required to meet such a high standard. The simple solution is for Haringey to agree with St. William, the Environment Agency and Thames Water an alternative, acceptable standard;
- Misconnections where house drainage from kitchens, bathrooms, washing machines and in a small number of cases wcs, have been erroneously and illegally connected to surface water pipes that flow into the river. These are upstream in Hornsey and Crouch End, an area of high environmental conscience and one surely unaware of its part in the effort to reclaim the river for Hornsey. To its credit, Haringey, without much, if any political support, is addressing these energetically. There is the real prospect of no misconnections in the next 6 – 9 months;
- St. William plans to start work next summer on creating the park that contains the hidden Moselle. It is these works that will make it possible to restore the river to the surface. However, the opportunity will be missed, probably never to be repeated, if an alternative to the ‘bathing’ water standard is not agreed before January, 2019. The appropriate date for achieving this standard is prior to completion of the new park: cognisance should also be taken of the programme to deal with the last of the misconnections upstream.
- The last practical issue is cost: St. William can afford to restore the river as part of the redevelopment if it is done now but, as a borough wide resource and strategic objective, it is only reasonable that some of the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is used to restore the river. Though short in length, it should be the first step in creating the ‘Blue Ribbon’ from east to west that celebrates and brings all who live in Haringey closer to their only river.
St. William’s plans to restore the Moselle through Heartlands will be discussed at PMRA’s next General Meeting at 8pm on 26th September 2018 but in the meantime, check out the planning application, ref: HGY/2018/2487
Please also write to and tweet your ward councillors, the Leader and Cabinet and insist it takes charge and restores the river.