diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q Edmonton/Tottenham
Last week Q♣, this week Q♠, and that's all four Queens dealt from my pack. The Herbert Commission proposed coupling Tottenham with Edmonton, to the north, but instead ended up linking it to Hornsey and Wood Green to the west. I've been out to visit this Leaside borough-that-never was, specifically to the corner of Edmonton that Enfield council wants to transform into its flagship post-industrial super-residential project. It's been on the drawing board for ages, but is 2017 the year Meridian Water finally takes off?

Meridian Water

Let's start with the name, because half of it is correct. This new residential neighbourhood is destined to grow across 200 brownfield acres adjoining the River Lea, and that ticks off the Water bit. But the zero degree line of longitude actually passes through Chingford, over a mile to the east, indeed the Greenwich meridian doesn't pass through Enfield at all. Still, why let geographical reality get in the way of a prime marketing-friendly property brand?

Here's the area in question.

Meridian Water is planned to grow where the North Circular crosses the River Lea. The river runs in two broad channels - one across the centre of the picture and another bending towards the front, with a large industrial estate sprawled inbetween. If you've ever visited the site of Meridian Water, the most likely place you've been is the big blue shed in the top left hand corner of the picture, because that's the Tottenham IKEA. It stays. Almost everything else on site goes.

Meridian Water is planned to grow where the North Circular crosses the railway to Stansted Airport, which makes it terribly well-connected... or at least potentially so. But currently nobody lives here, which helps explain the awkward reality of the only station on site being the least used station in the whole of London. That's Angel Road, a grim station of the most desolate order, served by half a dozen trains each rush hour, nothing inbetween and nothing at weekends. Access is from a staircase under a concrete overpass via a long alleyway alongside a metal recycling yard to a pair of isolated platforms. I visited last week to the sound of iron girders clanging thunderously nextdoor, and met only a large rat hanging from the fence by its legs, snuffling around in the litter bin below.

Angel Road can't possibly support a site delivering 10000 new homes, indeed its wholesale inadequacy has been one of the project's biggest hold-ups. But plans are set to replace the existing station with a new pair of platforms on the other side of the North Circular, better positioned for the new estate and considerably more convenient for lugging flatpacks home from IKEA nextdoor. More importantly a new rail shuttle from Stratford via Tottenham Hale to Angel Road is scheduled to enter operation at the end of 2018. This so-called STAR service will finally give potential residents a regular means of escape, unlocking development, and dedicated space for an additional track is already being cleared alongside the existing railway all the way from here down to Walthamstow Marshes.

People who'd like to talk about railways can talk about railways here. This post continues after the break.

Stand on the Leeside Road bridge above the railway line and you can see how much of Meridian Water West's land has already been cleared, if not yet fully remediated. What's going up on the left-hand side will be flats and shops and greenspace, but mostly flats, because this is prime land nudged up against the main transport hub. The very first building site is being laid out at the end of Willoughby Lane, a Phase 1 development delivering 725 Barratt homes, even if no foundations will be laid until 2019. Welcome, Creating a new destination for London, say the flags fluttering above the gate. Keep Out, Contaminated land, Danger of death, read a few of the warning signs on the fence.

What's going up on the right-hand side of the railway will be flats. There's also room across the road round the back of IKEA for more flats, what with their vast car park being mostly wasted space, and around the back of the Tesco Extra too. Future residents will have meatballs, self-assembly wardrobes and the week's groceries on their doorstep, which isn't what planners would have wished for given a blank slate, but damned convenient. It also means a stream of families driving in at all hours, flooding the area for a spin round the Furniture Orienteering Centre, as I like to think of Meridian Water's biggest tourist attraction.

Moving east, we reach the land between the Pymmes Brook and the Lea. Some of this is currently the Ravenside Retail Park, an arc of warehouse units barely a decade old, and home to big hitters such as Mothercare, Argos and Wickes. In one version of the masterplan I've seen these stay, fed by voracious streams of North Circular traffic, and in another they're erased to become more flats. More certain is the destruction of the former British Oxygen Company depot, a trio of enormous blue sheds rotting in a nomansland, and they'll definitely become flats. Or maybe offices, because the service sector now trumps manufacturing, but more likely flats, because more flats is what London needs.

It's to the east of the River Lea that the most radical transformation is already underway. A vast triangle of land has long been given over to a trading estate served by a web of service roads, the kind of backwater where a catering company, windscreen fitter, van rental depot, import wholesaler or motor workshop might be based. All gone... or if not all gone under imminent threat of demolition. I was amazed by the level of comprehensive destruction that's been wreaked since I last walked past up the riverside. Entire blocks cleared, acres of rubble-strewn hardstanding, discarded pallets, smashed-up caravans, vacant offices with graffitied doors and broken windows, and former streets sealed off in readiness for more.

One current survivor is the Arriva bus depot, stuck out in a godforsaken corner beneath pylons, and accessed only via an awkward waterside road. But what once looked like an inexpensive spot to park an army of vehicles is suddenly desirable real estate, and everything'll soon need to be rehoused elsewhere. One small brick hut looked like it might still be trading, or at least it had a sign up outside saying Open, and this was the Lea Side Cafe. I've seen it busy with men in overalls dining on meat and tea before, so considered nipping through a clear break in the fence for a closer look. Just in time I noticed that the car parked outside with its boot open said Dog Section on the bonnet, rapidly retreated, and hoped the handler had brought a Thermos.

One familiar aspect of Meridian Water, seen before on Stratford's Olympic site, is how it suddenly stops and rubs up against what's already here. The late Victorian terraces of Upper Edmonton nudge close on the western flank - properties technically far more desirable than the rabbit hutches that'll be erected across the road, but home to a disadvantaged community who could never afford to live in them. Meanwhile the Haringey/Enfield boundary halts development abruptly to the south, with the existing down-at-heel trading estates and builders' merchants destined to outlive the whirlwind. Meridian Water's "corridor of opportunity" will not stretch this far, nor will its "new suburban exemplar" extend. If only 1965 had seen Tottenham paired with Edmonton, total wipeout would have been assured.

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