I want to tell a story to help people sign a petition. I imagine doing it. I would speak to someone like the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum (CENF) or Haringey Council. I’d get time at the CENF but two minutes in the Planning Department where our objections are lodged would suffice. I’d start like this:
In listening to me you’ll detect an accent and think he’s not local, he’s a brummie. Well, Don’t. I’m black country. Proud of it.
When I was an active baggie boy, not an armchair one, I’d drive to London, Leave at the end of the M1, pick up the North Circ, turn onto the A1 and hang a left past Highgate Station. I’d drive a little way before turning round and parking as close to the station as I could. In doing so I’d think, ‘what a lovely road. I’m happy parking here. I feel safe’. Safe in London. Imagine.
Years passed. Leaving West Brom I came to London via Colchester. 61 years old. These are the three home towns I’ve known. I feel deep connections to each. London life started in Tottenham. I’ve only lived in Haringey. A friend told me about three lovely ladies making smashing cups of tea in the church up the road. I visited them and came, in time, to work with them. I always got a good cup of tea. I never thought one of those lovely ladies would become my lovely wife. One did.
I moved in with her. She lived in Shepheds Hill, Highgate. A lovely road. We have shared our lives for 30 years. Awhile after moving in I walked up the hill. I’d done this many times. This time I realised, I lived in the same road I parked my car in as a visiting baggie. It felt extraordinary. A magical connection. I looked around and smiled. I felt grateful to the trees, the energy around me. I thought, I’ve arrived, I’m home. It felt fantastical that when I used to park on the top of the hill my future wife was living at the bottom of it. Do you believe in magic?
Here’s something I believe. I believe your environment moulds you. Its one of those things that adds up to who you are. The place you live, the way you feel about it. I love it. I love my local environ. I’m more Crouch End than Highgate. Highgate’s my postal address. I’m part of a community here. I go to my local to watch the football. I particularly like to go when the Albion are on. People know I’m a baggie. My community has grown over the years. I know my fellow residents. We meet, eat, drink together. We get on well. Through our time in this place we have built links, embraced changes. Stayed together. I have become more aware of the history surrounding me. It pleases me that I live in a lovely road in a conservation area that was designed to protect Victorian Villas from demolition.
This is at risk. Demolishing the Villas next door, replacing them with an imposing block of flats, defined as detrimental to the area, just as the block I live in is defined as detrimental, just as every other block in the road is defined as detrimental, causes great sadness. The conservation area will be scarred. The trees that best define the environment we live in will be savaged as four are uprooted and cleared to make space for this new build. I am saddened that the whole frontage of this building will impinge upon the hill in ways no other building ever as. I am sad that my wife who is not tolerant to noise will feel she will have to move and face re-housing as the Villas come tumbling down. I stand to lose the magic I have felt here. I stand to lose my historical connection with place. I stand to lose my sense of community. My shape is changing.
This is why I talk about this. This is why I campaign and ask people to sign this petition. This is why I am opposed to demolition. The why is because my environment will no longer sustain me. Make conservation matter in Crouch End. Let’s build a Sustainable Haringey.