Judicial review over Tottenham stadium redevelopment plans

White Hart Lane by Bjorn Giesenbauer https://www.flickr.com/photos/giesenbauer/

Today the offshore game will be reporting from the judicial review into the compulsory purchase of land for the redevelopment of Tottenham’s stadium. Tax justice lies at the heart of this case and this is why we are interested.

Tottenham’s offshore owners

Tottenham are big players in the offshore game. The club is owned by ENIC International, a private company located in the Bahamas, where their tax exile owner Joe Lewis lives.

Joe made his money currency trading and was notably one of the men who bet against the pound on Black Wednesday, forcing it out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

Joe is reportedly worth $4.8bn, if you believe such statistics, and has a collection of art rumoured to be worth over $1bn.

Public sector support for stadium

However, it seems that Tottenham need some financial help from the public in order to complete their stadium plans.

The club believe the current White Hart Lane is not fit for a club seeking to compete with the top clubs in Europe. As explained by one football consultant, every match day the club falls £1m behind rivals Arsenal.

They have plans for a wholesale redevelopment of the site and indeed other peoples’ land too. The proposed redevelopment will include new luxury housing and a supermarket and will demolish part of a housing estate to create a new walkway to the stadium.

The plans also require the compulsory purchase of land to go forward.

Public obligations

Such a large scale redesign of an area puts a heavy burden on the developer. Planning policy says they should provide affordable housing with their new development, as well as a contribution to the local infrastructure they require to move the scheme forward.

But Tottenham claimed they couldn’t pay for it. They told their local council that unless they were allowed to build no affordable housing, and the public pay for the local infrastructure around the stadium, they would go and play somewhere else. They started contemplating a move to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

Haringey, one of the poorest local authorities in the country, gave into their demands, allowed them out of their obligations and agreed to pick up the tab for the infrastructure. In total they removed £16m in planning obligations, and the council and the Mayor of London have agreed to build £41m of infrastructure in the local area (although some of this was necessary even without the stadium).

Public inquiry

A public inquiry was held on the plans, as one of the businesses that would be forced out, Archway Sheet Metals, objected to a compulsory purchase order. Amongst other things they claimed that the support provided to Tottenham constituted illegal state aid.

The planning inspector took the public subsidy for the regeneration into account and recommended that the compulsory purchase be refused. He said:

“The principle benefit would be for a private business while the public benefits of regeneration would be at considerable cost to the taxpayer, and there would be no affordable housing. The s106 concessions were made by the council in the context of the claim that the stadium would not be viable and the club might move away.”

During the public inquiry process Tottenham claimed that the economics of the scheme had now changed and they could afford their obligations, but didn’t offer to now provide them. The Secretary of State wrote to Tottenham to ask them to do so but they replied with a commitment that was “unacceptably vague” and “unenforceable”.

The Secretary of State approved the scheme anyway, and Archway Sheet Metals have launched a judicial review of the decision. During the process leading up to today’s hearing, it emerged that the club had already been in discussions with the council for a new, even larger stadium when the inquiry into compulsory purchase was taking place.

  • JimB

    So much error, half truth and omission in this article!

    1. What does it matter that one of Spurs’ owners is a tax exile? That has nothing to do with the case.

    2. Tottenham do not need and are not asking for any financial help from the public purse. Where do you get this nonsense?

    3. Your use of the term “luxury” housing is mere spin and deliberately misleading. It will be private housing, true. And of a good quality, no doubt. But “luxury”? You’re just trying to further whatever your agenda is by painting an illusion of this being a development for the super wealthy. Clearly ridiculous since, as should hardly need pointing out, the super wealthy do not wish to live in deprived areas like N17.

    4. You refer to a housing estate being demolished in order to create a walkway to the stadium. Two things: Firstly, you conveniently neglect to mention that new and far better housing will be built to replace it. Secondly, it is an entirely separate development. Nothing to do with Spurs. Rather, it is Haringey Council’s project and part of their wider regeneration plans for the area.

    5. It is telling that you omit to mention a key element of the overall development - the new University Technical College, housed in the same building as the new supermarket. This will be a massive asset for the area and the football club, in addition to having built the property, is an active partner with the school.

    6. THFC will not be building affordable housing on the site of the Northumberland Development Project but they are a partner in the new Brook House Development nearby which is providing 222 new homes. Incidentally, you also appear to unaware of the fact that what the immediate area most lacks in terms of housing stock is good quality private residences. The justification for Spurs building private new homes is therefore compelling.

    7. The area of north Tottenham has been neglected by local and national government alike for decade upon decade. Why should a football club be asked to make up for what government has failed to do? Spurs are a developer in this case, certainly. But they aren’t a Westfield, for example. They aren’t a multi billion pound behemoth. Other clubs have benefited (or will soon benefit) from vast public expenditure on infrastructure over the years - Arsenal, for instance have five tube stations closer to their stadium than the closest tube station to White Hart Lane; and West Ham will have many billions of publicly paid for infrastructure on their doorstep when they move to the Olympic stadium. What have these clubs paid for this? Why aren’t you focusing on them rather than making a fuss about the comparatively trivial amounts of public expenditure that will finally be spent on helping to improve the area of north Tottenham?

    • the Offshore Game

      Happy to engage in the debate, but what we have reported here on the public infrastructure financial contribution and the affordable housing obligation is pretty much straight down the line what the planning inspector reported and what is said in the Secretary of State’s decision notice. The planning inspector recommended the compulsory purchase be refused on the grounds the public interest case was lessened by the exclusion of affordable housing. The Secretary of State accepted it was an issue but thought the regeneration benefits were enough to make up for it. Archway believe that the Secretary of State had been influenced by Tottenham’s claims that including affordable housing was not financially viable.

      On your point about whether this is necessary, all developers have an obligation to provide affordable housing in London, regardless of who the are, if they build more than 10 homes.

      On you first point about whether the owner’s tax status matters. As the TJN we would see that as something worth mentioning.

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