Tottenham’s new stadium masterplan: the fury amid the regeneration
The Guardian, 30 October 2013
The north London club says ‘we are finally seeing the start of the much-needed regeneration’ in deprived Tottenham kickstarted by the stadium scheme – but not everyone is happy with its impact
+ Video: Haringey residents losing out in redevelopment?
Just two years after the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Daniel Levy, finally gave up his fight to move to the Olympic Stadium site in Stratford, his club is closing in on a new 56,000-seat stadium, and apparently all he was asking for, back in White Hart Lane.
The local council, Haringey, desperately keen to keep Spurs investing £400m in a deprived area, agreed last year to reduce the club’s obligations towards transport and other community improvements, originally part of planning permission for the new stadium, from £16.4m down to £0.5m. In total £41m of public money from the council and the mayor of London’s office has been promised for the area around Spurs’ proposed new stadium; the authorities’ sense of urgency prompted by the shock of the riots that erupted in Tottenham in the summer of 2011.
Also encouraging Levy to stay was that the standard London planning requirement for housing developments – to include 50% affordable housing – was waived for Spurs, after he argued that to make the new stadium financially viable, the club needs all the money it can make from selling 285 apartments on the site of the current ground at full market rate.
Levy also urged that wider regeneration of Tottenham was needed to encourage bank and investor confidence in the Spurs project and earlier this year Haringey council dramatically unveiled three sets of controversial development proposals for a large area across Tottenham High Road from the new stadium site. All three of the options are bitterly opposed by local business people who have found their premises suddenly earmarked for demolition after decades of work. Two rows of shops, with homes above, opposite the entrance to the planned new stadium, are to be demolished, as is the Love Lane housing estate, partly to make space for a wide walkway to steward fans from an improved White Hart Lane train station to the new stadium. The council says that on non-match days that walkway will function as a new mini-town centre, with cafes, restaurants and public space.
To the north of the new walkway, the council’s plans envisage 1,650 new homes, retail units, employment workspaces, a promised cinema, a new sports and community centre, and a library, just along from the current library, for which a row of six shops, including a doctor’s surgery, are to be demolished. The Peacock industrial estate, currently fully occupied with garages and other businesses, is to be knocked down in two of the options, and become Peacock Mews. All the businesses on the industrial estate have been told they must move if the plans are approved, but not how they will be compensated or relocated, because, the council says, the scheme is as yet only for consultation. The council tenants on the Love Lane estate have been promised new homes in the proposed development, which has led to them approving the plans, but traders are furious.
Sam Oliveri, 60, who has built up his garage on the Peacock industrial estate over 40 years and works with his son, Nick, in the business, said: “We have been in Tottenham all these years, we haven’t planned to go anywhere else, it is a good area; we have never had any trouble. We worked hard, made sacrifices, and now the council wants to take my business. It seems they want to give me peanuts so that somebody can make a fortune building flats on it.”
Several local traders said they believed the council’s “masterplan” would principally enable Spurs to make money, because the club had steadily been buying property in the High Road west area when it became available, and had become the biggest landowner. Its acquisitions included the Carbery enterprise park, off White Hart Lane itself, behind the Peacock industrial estate.
Sam Oliveri in his garage at the Peacock industrial estate. Photograph: Jonny Weeks for The Guardian
Land Registry records of property owned by Spurs under the 11 UK-registered companies it has used to buy dozens of properties on Tottenham High Road, Paxton Road and elsewhere to create space for its new stadium, revealed none owned across in the High Road west area. However, a search of the Carbery enterprise park, still registered as “land on the north side of White Hart Lane, London”, revealed that it is owned by TH Property Ltd, of 303 Shirley Street, PO Box N492, Nassua, New Province, the Bahamas. It was transferred to the Bahamas-registered company on 27 March this year, by Greenbay Property, one of the UK companies Spurs have used to buy and hold property.
A Spurs spokesperson confirmed that TH Property Ltd is owned by Enic International, the company registered in the Bahamas that owns 85% of Spurs. Joe Lewis, the billionaire currency trader, lives reportedly as a UK tax exile in the Bahamas, and owns just over 70% of Enic International. The other 29.4% is owned by a trust that has Levy and his family as potential beneficiaries. Levy’s salary, £2.2m in 2011-12, is paid by Enic International, which recharges Spurs.
The Bahamas-registered TH Property owns approximately 20 separate properties on the Tottenham High Road west site now earmarked by the council for major residential development.
All of the properties – including 6, 14,16 and 63 White Hart Lane which Spurs bought, and a first floor flat, 12a White Hart Lane; shops on Tottenham High Road itself, unit 1 on the Peacock industrial estate and numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in a block of flats, Percival Court – were transferred to TH Property Ltd on 27 March. Some were transferred by Greenbay, others by another UK property company owned by Spurs, Canvax Limited.
The proposals for wholesale demolition of the property in the area, including the businesses trading there, and the development of 1,650 homes, were unveiled shortly afterwards, in April.
The site of Tottenham’s proposed new ground, near the existing one, White Hart Lane. Photograph: Jonny Weeks
Owning assets in Britain via companies registered in tax havens can be a means of avoiding corporate capital gains tax when they are sold at a profit. Richard Murphy, the anti-tax avoidance campaigner of Tax Research UK, said this arrangement gives clear potential for corporation tax to be avoided: “If the property here is owned by an offshore company, there is no corporation tax on the gain when the property is sold,” he said.
However, the Spurs spokesperson said this was not a reason for the property transfers and UK tax will be paid on any profit made. “The transfer was to clear debts out of our UK companies which had bought the properties, so the club itself is not carrying the debts,” she said. “That will help with the bank financing required for the new stadium. Both this and the club are UK operating organisations and UK tax will be paid on all UK transactions.”
Levy has strained for years to keep Spurs competitive with an income at 36,000-seat White Hart Lane £100m lower in total (in 2011-12) than Arsenal’s £245m at the 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium. The spokesperson said with the work done over years to assemble and clear a new stadium site behind the current ground, and the changes made by the council, Spurs are confident they will finally put the project out to tender early next year and have “cranes on site” by the end of 2014. The £400m cost is to be raised from selling naming rights to the stadium, and bank borrowing to bridge the gap.
A view of the new supermarket development on Tottenham High Road. Photograph: Jonny Weeks
To the north behind the Paxton Road end of Spurs’ home since 1899, a large site has been all but cleared, stretching from the current ground to a massive new Sainsbury’s supermarket due to open shortly. The club bought dozens of properties there over recent years and says it successfully relocated 72 businesses, many to other premises locally. The supermarket site, on which Sainsbury’s has taken a lease, Spurs preferring the regular cash flow rather than sell for a one-off sum, is also owned by TH Property Ltd in the Bahamas. It too was transferred on 27 March this year by Spurs property companies, Stardare Limited and Star Furnishing Company Limited, to the Bahamas company. A new university technical college for around 1,000 pupils aged 14-17, sponsored by Spurs themselves and Middlesex University, is being built above the Sainsbury’s and will also lease the premises from TH Property Limited.
Micky Josif, a member of the family which owns and runs Archway Metals on Paxton Road. Photograph: Jonny Weeks
Just one of the old engineering and industrial concerns remains on Spurs’ side of Tottenham High Road: Archway Metals, still working away on Paxton Road itself. Its proprietors, the Josif family, are resisting, and opposing in court the compulsory purchase order they have been served to clear them off. Archway, which employs about 30 people, has argued that the huge new football stadium and associated development will create just 274 permanent new jobs and not be the catalyst for wider regeneration of Tottenham that the council, and the local Labour MP, David Lammy, crave. The council took CPO proceedings after the firm would not agree a price to sell up to Spurs; a judgment is expected next month.
Spurs’ struggles to satisfy excess demand from fans and cash in on their and the Premier League’s soaring profile and popularity, are part of the wider agonies several clubs have had, to expand their grounds within the old urban neighbourhoods in which they originally nestled. Spurs, famously formed by school old boys who met under a lamppost on Tottenham High Road in 1882 to discuss playing the great new game of football, have outgrown the home they moved into 17 years later. Sharing in the Premier League’s £5.5bn 2013-16 TV deals, and having wrought €100m (£85m) from Real Madrid for Gareth Bale in the summer, Lewis’s football club now inhabits a different financial galaxy from neighbouring businesses in Tottenham.
Having long recognised the need for a bigger stadium, and the income from selling 20,000 more tickets and the corporate packages, catering and merchandising that could launch Spurs into the Premier League and European financial elite, Levy secured planning permission from Haringey council first in September 2011. By then he had already terrified the council by seriously competing with West Ham to occupy the Olympic Stadium site and move away from Tottenham, a still vibrant area but one that has some neighbourhoods, close to White Hart Lane, among the 2-3% most deprived in England.
After the summer 2011 riots, and the council’s and mayor of London’s promise to invest public money in Tottenham, Spurs and the council renegotiated the terms of the planning permission. The council, according to its minutes of the decisions releasing Spurs from their previous obligations, also committed then to an “area-wide regeneration masterplan”.
Tottenham’s chairman Daniel Levy. Photograph: Nick Potts/PA
In a joint statement with the council leader, Claire Kober, on 31 January 2012, Levy made it clear that more development was a priority for him if Spurs were to consider staying in Tottenham viable. He had complained that land values in the area were too low to enable Spurs to finance the stadium with property development, as Arsenal substantially did in more fashionable and expensive Islington, by building desirable apartments in the shell of the old Highbury stadium.
“We have long said we could only invest in the area if we could see our commitment supported by others and that there was a real need to maximise the regeneration benefits and lift the wider area,” Levy said then.
The club and council had, they said, entered into an agreement to support the new stadium project, and “to promote wider regeneration through the development of a ‘North Tottenham Regeneration programme'”. That latter commitment produced the plans released in April for the massive development in High Road west, complete with Spurs walkway and demolition of businesses.
The Spurs spokesperson acknowledged that the club is a major landowner in that area, via the Bahamas company, but argued developing High Road west is necessary to complement the new stadium project.
“It is vital to have wider regeneration such that the effect of the investment in the stadium is maximised to the benefit of the whole community,” she said. “We do own property in the High Road west area, but developing it is a long-term prospect; the funding for the new stadium does not depend on it at all.”
A hoarding reads ‘passionate about Tottenham’. Photograph: Jonny Weeks
She argues that committing to a £400m investment in Tottenham will bring invaluable economic and social benefits to the area. “With phase one nearing completion and the supermarket opening on 6 November, we are finally seeing the start of the much-needed regeneration in Tottenham. The stadium scheme is kickstarting it, creating a ripple effect of wider development, new jobs, schools and homes to an area of great need.”
The council has defended its proposals in two stormy meetings with angry traders, many of whom see themselves becoming victims of the effort to please Spurs. Councillor Alan Strickland, the Haringey cabinet member for regeneration, denied that, saying the plans had been drawn up with a vision to improve the economic fortunes of “the whole of Tottenham”. Strickland said the council was not giving favourable treatment to Spurs, but the club staying in Tottenham is hugely important to the area: “The club and the council have a shared agenda in terms of wanting the area to improve,” he said. “We need to deliver for our residents and businesses, and clearly Spurs would like to have a stadium in a regenerated area, and that’s fair enough. Obviously Spurs are a major landowner in [the High Road west] area, so Spurs are an important partner and we will continue to work with them very closely.”
Dave Morris, the veteran campaigner who is involved with the Our Tottenham coalition of tenants’ and community groups, said: “Tottenham people need more affordable rents, more council housing and more community facilities. In this plan, council tenants on the Love Lane estate are protected but private tenants and leaseholders are not. This is all corporate-led, a top-down, mega-development.”
Haringey council, like other poor boroughs that historically host a Premier League club, believes accommodating Tottenham Hotspur is vital to change in its area, hence the agreement to waive the £16m for transport and public community improvements. In football, Daniel Levy has earned a reputation as a man who strikes hard-nosed deals in his club’s favour, as Real Madrid can now attest. Levy spent all the Bale money on eight new players, including Roberto Soldado, £26m from Valencia, and Erik Lamela, £26m from Roma, to keep the team competitive while negotiating hard for his new stadium. Some would say that in Tottenham, in his own neighbourhood, which struggles with poverty and social deprivation, he has struck a keen deal too, via TH Property Limited, registered in the Bahamas.
• This article was updated on 30 October 2013 to reflect the fact that Joe Lewis is not Daniel Levy’s uncle