Thursday, 23 May 2019

Trojan Horse by Martin Bates and Ilhan Parlayan of Martin Bates Design

Martin Bates and Ilhan Parlayan of Martin Bates Design (martinbatesdesign.co.uk) are making a Trojan horse for 'Who are ya?' in Tate Exchange at Tate Modern, London August 6-11.

The horse already looks beautiful but it isn't finished yet, updates will be posted as they come through.

Early construction of the Trojan horse by martinbatesdesign.co.uk
Construction of the Trojan horse by martinbatesdesign.co.uk with a view of its post box.
Another view of the Trojan horse by martinbatesdesign.co.uk

The workshop at martinbatesdesign.co.uk

Martin Bates writes about his business and the threat it is under right now

BETWEEN A ROCK AND HARINGEY COUNCIL

My name is Martin Bates. I run a furniture design and manufacturing business in Tottenham.

I started the business in 1982 in a rented/shared workshop in Holloway but in 1998, needing more space and not wanting to keep paying rent for premises I didn’t own, I decided to buy an industrial unit on the Peacock Industrial Estate. This was a great improvement for the business although it was hard to pay the mortgage with a young family. But I thought at least I would end up owning the workshop and having something to provide me with a pension.

The Peacock Estate contains a lot of what is left of the North London furniture industry and we developed a collaborative relationship where I would buy wood from DW Woodworks, metalwork from CD metalworks, get finished items sprayed at Florite and get carving, upholstery and leatherwork done at The Collectors Workshop. All of these processes could take place without motorized transport as we could move jobs on trolleys from unit to unit.

North Tottenham is not a rich or smart part of London. We have worked here for 20 years with high levels of crime, riots and poor infrastructure but have managed to maintain a productive and growing business on an estate which employs up to 240 people. We had no help from the council and heard little from them until we got news of the High Road West masterplan.

HIGH ROAD WEST “CONSULTATION”

In January 2014 I arranged a meeting with Sarah Lovell and Abdul Qureshi at the planning department to discuss the implications. I was told that I would have to give up my workshop but that the council didn’t want to break up the businesses on the estate and was looking for an alternative site to relocate us to within the borough. This reassured me as there is so little industrial space available within the North Circular and my business would not work if we had to move further from central London.

The council organised meetings with the local community being asked for their responses to the Masterplan. I went to the meetings with other freeholders from the Peacock Estate but we found very little to help us and felt more and more like an obstacle that needed to be removed and, whenever we asked for our protests to be heard were told that was not appropriate at that meeting.

So we asked for an extra meeting with Stephen Kelly from the planning department to discuss our future. He listened to our concerns and was sympathetic but acknowledged that we didn’t have much chance of avoiding CPOs. He told us to submit our objections to the council’s Area Action Plan which I did ( 6th March 2014 ).

I spent the next few months looking for alternative workspace nearby but found nothing as so many industrial units had already been demolished to make way for the new stadium. At least, I thought, I had a few years to find an alternative.

So I was shocked a few months later when Mr Qureshi told me and my neighbors at CD metalwork that they now planned to proceed with the northern section of the plan and may need us to move out in 6 months to provide an access road. I had at least 6 months work programmed, employees to manage and was told that the council’s search for alternative workspace had achieved nothing (personally I don’t believe any serious effort was made by them). In addition Mr Qureshi told us that we would be compulsory purchased if we didn’t accept the council’s offer, which would be based on the governments CPO calculations for industrial space (which do not reflect the scarcity of factory space in the area). He said we would be better off accepting the councils offer and moving quickly rather than losing money like Archway Metals, the local business who fought against a CPO and spent a huge amount on legal fees before losing (and incidentally, having their factory destroyed in what appeared to be an arson attack).

It now looked as though my business would have to close down and I would lose my investment. I cannot afford to retire, especially since renting my workshop was to be my main pension so, at 60 years old I would have to start a new career. I was stressed and depressed.

THE SEVEN YEAR WAIT

Suddenly, nothing happened. We heard no more from the council for years. I didn’t know how long we had left at the Peacock Industrial Estate and couldn’t plan for the future. Businesses on the estate were becalmed, unable to invest in equipment or staff as they didn’t know how long they could employ them. I had to turn down a young man who wanted to do an apprenticeship because I couldn’t guarantee to employ him for the three years of his college course. My business which had been growing for over 30 years hit a plateau. I have stopped spending money on the building, stopped investing in machinery and stopped taking on new employees as I can’t see that the investment would be justified.

MEANINGFUL EMPLOYMENT

Over the last 30 years I have employed and given work-experience/training to over 30 people, many of whom started with limited knowledge/experience and many of whom moved on to start their own businesses or to work in more senior positions in larger companies. We have taught them furniture making, design, fitting, some business management and developed their personal and social skills. This is the kind of training which is in increasingly short supply and which very rarely flourishes in new developments once the local industrial community has been eradicated. In the modern slash-and-burn style developer-lead schemes the employment which mostly replaces businesses like mine tends to be coffee-making, nail polishing and security, minimum wage jobs with no career path ahead. It took a lot of the business on the Peacock Estate two generations to build their businesses which currently employ 230 people. If these businesses go, who can wait two further generations for the next nurturing employment opportunities to evolve

OUR LOSS IS HARINGEYS GAIN We campaigned to stay on the estate and submitted a pre-planning application based on the masterplan but with industrial units below the flats to allow some businesses to remain. This was refused for two main reasons: firstly continuity of building – that it would be difficult to join different sections of the masterplan if they were built by different developers (not an insurmountable problem in modern building technology); and most importantly because, as Sarah Lovell explained, the cost of developing the Love Lane section of the scheme with associated infrastructure investment needed to be subsidized from the profits from the rest of the development.

This illustrates how the council hope to improve the area by harnessing the wealth generated by taking our properties and generating further value by granting residential permission to the developer. They had already skewed the masterplan in their own financial favour by siting the park that provides green space for the tower block residents in the middle of our land thus devaluing our site and using us further to subsidize the neighbouring land packages.

I understand that the council wants to improve the area, build more housing and add to the infrastructure. I understand that they have no money to achieve this and so have to fund it through planning gain. What I find unacceptable is that they can use compulsory purchase to achieve this. If they choose to give their own land to the south of White Hart Lane to a developer in return for flats/improvements that is fair enough but CPOs were originally intended for use to facilitate schemes of national importance, not to generate cash for developers, some of which may be used for infrastructure improvements, at the expense of the people who have owned the site for generations.

Lendlease have now been appointed as the council’s preferred developer and they have approached the businesses on the estate supposedly to help with purchase/relocation. I told them I need a similar workspace in the borough of Haringey and that I want to own it as I have spent years paying off a mortgage in order that I wouldn’t have to pay rent again and would have a rentable asset when I retire. They told me they would do their best to help me but, a while later, I was sent a list of factories, all for rent and all too far away to meet my needs. So, if the High Road West scheme goes ahead, I will lose a business, a capital asset and my pension.

One of my neighbours was recently offered the equivalent of 6 years rent as payment for their unit by the council/Lendlease. If I were to accept a similar offer I could afford to live for 6 years after retirement.

Some council officers think we are against regeneration. This is not true. We are happy to be part of the improvement of an area we know from experience has long needed attention. But we believe we have not been properly consulted and our position is not being properly respected. WE have worked on this estate for up to 80 years. WE bought the properties. WE are the local business community.

Lendlease and the council own nothing here but can flatten our livelihoods for profit. Where is the justice in that?

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