For almost a year there has been little public talk about regenerating Wood Green. We learned with relief that the absurd plans to demolish the Mall and the housing above it had been withdrawn.
Successful campaigns by the Page High Tenants Association and Sky City Action Group saw the back of that. And there has been a lot of information about the ‘meanwhiling’ uses of a range of local spaces, breweries, small business and entrepreneurs.
But the march of tower blocks, the playing around on a drawing board - ignoring or undervaluing what’s here already - which characterised the presentation of the Wood Green Area Action Plan has been in abeyance.
We’ve been able to focus (with some modest success) on the things that matter now – Martin’s Walk, the layout of Hornsey Park Road, the new park behind the lime-trees, even the deculverting of the Moselle on the Heartlands.
But now the AAP is back.
Tower-blocks, boulevards, bizarre intrusions into open space. No discussion of transport capacity or biodiversity. Urban fantasy. And the assumption that people here already will share the excitement and sense of opportunity expressed by the desk-top designers and planners who will make a living from it all.
Last week just three local organisations, and two Hornsey Ward councillors, joined architects We Made That and members of the regeneration team on a walkabout to look at the Penstock Path and Tunnel. The Council has around £400,000 to refurbish it - not very much when you come to think about it.
We’re in support of this.
The great arch of the east-fencing entrance should be opened up to make a sociable open space drawing in the greenery from the embankments.
The arc of the tunnel itself should be respected and exposed to show further the rich history written in the brickwork.
The caged walkway alongside the railway line should be softened out to the New River bank and the oppressive fence removed.
The path must be realigned to allow better sightlines and improve safety. The stretch above the New River Village and Penstock House should anticipate a new wetland around the water treatment works.
The ecological riches of the south-eastern corner of Alexandra Park must be protected. The very obvious foot-route north to Alexandra Palace station should be installed.
By all means increase the flow of pedestrians between Wood Green and the park but not at the expense of the very features that make it such an asset.
Few of these ideas figure in the AAP proposals. Instead the Council claims a deal with Thames Water to build on the filter beds which will violate their status as Metropolitan Open Land. Railtrack has sold off its land to developers and a vast new conurbation is still envisaged along Coburg Road.
Social housing seems no more of a priority than it ever was. Extravagant and unnecessary densification is still being proposed with no thought to the actual demand for it in very uncertain times. And all this by bodies which cannot maintain a clean environment or fix a hole in the pavement.
If we’re to do anything about all this there will have to be a much higher level of interest, involvement and coordination. The only organisations on Thursday’s walkabout were Parkside Malvern Residents Association, Page High Tenants Association and the Friends of Alexandra Park. The Noel Park councillors were nowhere to be seen.
There has always been a confusion in Wood Green between the Haringey Development Vehicle and the Area Action Plan. The collapse of the former has not meant the abandonment of the latter.
Wake up, neighbours! We’re going to have to start all over again.
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