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High Farce In Hornsey… The Hornsey High St Development.

Hornsey High St Development Former public baths and wash house High Street Hornsey, N8

Hornsey High St Development

High Farce In Hornsey. The Hornsey High Street Development

No, everyone, the title of this piece – very regrettably – does not refer to a new theatrical venture dedicated to the works of Ben Travers et al; I’m talking of course about the Hornsey Action Group (HAG) – aided and abetted by the Lib Dems – applying to the courts for a judicial review following Haringey’s decision, controversial in the views of some, to grant planning consent on 3rd February this year for the joint development by St James and Sainsbury’s of the old Hornsey Depot site.

The result of the above is that, basically, the whole process has had to start all over again. Yet another public meeting took place on 9th July.

You will all be familiar with the broad thrust of the proposed development, but to very quickly recap this scheme comprises:

  • 432 (originally 438) residential apartments, including affordable housing and an ancillary gym.
  • A c. 35,000 square foot (gross internal area) Sainsbury’s Store beneath one of the residential blocks, which will include – and this is the relevant bit – a net retail/sales area of c. 19,500 square feet.
  • Additional retail space of c. 3,800 square feet fronting the High Street and which will be available for letting.
  • 114 parking spaces for the food store and High Street, plus 178 (originally 168) parking spaces for residents

You’ll note that a couple of the above numbers have been amended following a revised application submitted by the joint developers on 9th June this year.

If the story published in the Ham & High on 26th June has reported the situation accurately, I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

The prime reasons given for the HAG challenging the Council’s decision are apparently nothing to do with environmental/traffic considerations, the strain on existing local resources (schools, surgeries etc.) or even a perceived threat to local independent traders – all of which, whether you agree that there are genuine grounds for concern or not, could be considered by a rational human being as matters worthy of further debate and clarification: the Lib Dems have, to be fair, highlighted the need for more detail on some of these matters.

No – the earth-shatteringly vital issues, so far as the HAG is concerned ad according to the Ham & High, are the fate of the old public baths frontage and the loss of the (sic) iconic view of Alexandra Palace from one part of Hornsey High Street. Let’s look at the reality of these situations, shall we?

The deeply unattractive (in my view, at least) old public baths building (or rather what’s left of it) which fronts the High Street and sits approximately where the entrance to the proposed new development will be located, has been abandoned for decades: no serious (or even half-hearted come to that) attempt has ever been made to find a new use for it since it closed and according to my information it is hasn’t even been considered worth “listing” – hardly an edifice, then, which merits a lot of consideration in terms of whether it stays or goes in the face of other considerations and a much, much bigger picture.

I saw reference in the Ham & High report to “Hornsey’s public health heritage”, by the way. What does that even mean????

Then we come to the iconic (such an overused word, but that’s what they’re calling it) view of Alexandra Palace – above and framed by the aforementioned ugly old public baths building – which if it were lost behind the new development would so it seems impoverish local residents’  lives to an intolerable degree.

I’ve now lived in the area for 28 years, and throughout that time have been a regular user of the facilities on Hornsey High Street so I’m very familiar with the view in question but in truth can’t say I’ve ever gazed up in wonder, or indeed done any more than briefly glance, so far as I remember, at what is really……well… just another view of Ally Pally. I’ve certainly never collided with anyone rooted to the spot having been rendered breathless by the vista

Joking apart, though, what’s really at stake are such trivial matters as:

  • Finally making very good use of a very large and long-neglected site.
  • Taking a wonderful opportunity to provide the area with very much-needed – and good-quality – housing stock.
  • Creating no fewer than 120 new jobs (to be sourced from within the immediate area) in addition to 55 employment opportunities arising from the construction works.
  • Taking an opportunity to improve the retail offer in that part of Haringey and thus help revitalise the High Street.

In addition to the above, the developers have pledged a sum of more than £750,000 for new school places, jobs and training to support families moving into the new apartments, and then there’s the small matter of cash from the sale of the land being ploughed into regeneration projects across the borough – a reported figure of around £15 million.

The HAG is, seemingly, fully prepared to try and sabotage all that for what? The preservation of an ugly, unloved and abandoned bit of 1930’s municipal “tat” that nobody will miss and will have completely forgotten about in a few years’ time, and the view of a distant building.

I’d be the last person to tell anyone to get a life, but it’s my belief that the well-intentioned folk of the HAG have to start looking at the big picture, embracing the shocking notion that life moves on, and considering what’s really important for the community as a whole rather than – so it seems to me – resist change for the sake of…well…resisting change.

As I say, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…


About Jonathan Browne (13 Articles)
Libertarian, gourmand, Villa fan, guitar player, bar stool philosopher and mensch; I also know a bit about about buildings and businesses; and businesses in buildings