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view from an upper floor of the mall wood green showing the view across to alexandra palace on a hilltop surrounded by parklandA cafe on an upper floor of the Mall in Wood Green could open up this view to shoppers. Under a now abandoned plan, the Mall and some of the buildings in the foreground would have been demolished. Anabel Gregory sets out a much more modest proposal which would turn currently unsightly spaces into a covered market and community space

A few years back Haringey Council was planning a total revamp of the centre of Wood Green, tearing down the Mall (the former Shopping City), the library, Morrisons supermarket and many more buildings besides, reinstating a normal street pattern, opening up views towards Alexandra Palace and creating new squares and a boulevard . That plan was abandoned four years ago, and as a consequence the many shoppers and diners who throng to the town centre still have to contend with some of the worst aspects of 1960s and 1970s town planning.

What could be done, on a much smaller scale, to improve Wood Green town centre? Anabel Gregory has some ideas This is an expanded version of an article that appeared originally in Haringey Community Press, August 2022. .

Haringey’s largest town centre, in Wood Green, is not a very pleasant place to visit, aligned as it is north/south along the High Road. The crowds constantly tramp up and down between the shops strung out along it, and the bus stops and stations. The air pollution generated by the 11 bus routes and other motor traffic (not all sorted by going electric See e.g. )  is more than five times higher than the WHO guidelines, and those worst affected by this hidden killer must be the crowds massing around the fruit and veg stalls on street corners  See Haringey Council’s annual Air Quality status report (p.15, site HR31) quality annual status report for 2021.pdf; and London Air Quality Network (zoom in to Wood Green High Road); new WHO guidelines 2021 (figure of 5 times recommended levels is for NO2; PM2.5 figure is about 4 times).
. They surely deserve a more suitable market area.

A hugely ambitious scheme was proposed a few years ago by Haringey Council to redesign the town centre (as documented in their Wood Green Area Action Plan Wood Green Area Action Plan Feb 2018 (WGAAP) ). This included creating a brand-new Town Square to the west of the High Road (and a Civic Boulevard still further west). Inspired by the prospect of a Crossrail 2 station bringing hordes of shoppers from outside the borough to shop in new Big Retail units, the council planned to make room for this development with the demolition of a swathe of buildings - including the Mall, library, Morrisons, and Community Hub (also originally some private houses in Caxton and Mayes roads). Wood Green as we know it is unrecognisable in the artist’s impression of this new Town Square (see image below).

copy of figure from wood green area action plan 2018 showing artists impression of view over the market to ally pallyIn 2017 Haringey Council was proposing a complete makeover of central Wood Green. This illustration from the Area Action Plan shows the view from a projected new Town Square over the relocated market towards Alexandra Palace

This proposed development was part of the controversial Haringey Development Vehicle, by which the Council’s assets would be split half-and-half with the developer LendLease. Many buildings in addition to those listed above were earmarked for demolition, including a number of council estates in Tottenham (as well of course as Sky City – a neighbourhood of council properties on top of the Mall). The HDV aroused widespread opposition from a variety of groups and individuals in the borough, and it was abandoned in July 2018 after the resignation of the leader of the council, Clare Kober Two contrasting accounts of the end of this scheme: ; ) .

What should a town centre be like? Changing attitudes

No further plans for opening up the centre of Wood Green have been formally proposed, so far as I know, so the crowds still tramp up and down the High Road.The WGAAP is still said to be ‘emerging’. Meanwhile, attitudes had been changing about what a town centre should be like. This was a period, pre-pandemic, when the Death of the High Street was much discussed in national newspapers, focusing on the abandonment by shoppers of Big Retail Units in favour of online shopping.

An independent review noted in 2018 that "we have to accept that there is already too much retail space in the UK. Town centres need to be repopulated as community hubs.” “We need,” declared Mary Portas, “to put the heart back into the centre of our high streets, reimagined as destinations for socialising, culture, health, wellbeing, creativity and learning.” This was partly in the interests of selling stuff – when shoppers linger, drink coffee, socialise, they are also more likely to spend money in the shops. their-town-centres ;  

In Haringey, the council’s New Local Plan (2020) reflected these changing views - noting that many of the existing large national retailers in Wood Green were leaving, apart from those in the Mall (not mentioned there, but the likelihood of Crossrail 2 coming to Wood Green has also now disappeared over the horizon):

successful centres will need to move beyond a reliance on retail, and provide a more diverse set of activities to encourage visitors...

Having an inclusive town centre, means being easily accessible to everyone. Having places for people to sit and relax, and for children to play is important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing and means that town centres are not just spaces reserved for those who have money to spend ... their-town-centres ;  

This change in emphasis from Big Retail to community uses is evident in the decision to have a community garden on the roof of an under-used car park – for which funding has already been granted by the mayor - and medical services offered in the Mall.;  

West of Wood Green High Road: A new alternative

So I suggest looking again at the space to the west of the High Road where the council planned to build a new Town Square, with a view to having a much smaller, people-friendly market area there. Behind the library there are still the vacant areas mentioned in the WGAAP – ‘under-used service yards’ and ‘half-empty car parks’ (in addition to the six floors of parking space on the roofs of the Mall and Morrisons!). WGAAP pp. 50-51, 53-54. If pruned, these could provide the basis for a market area – without the mass demolition of swathes of buildings.

rear view of library arcade in wood green and back of morrisons

The picture above shows the library on the right (with a mural of books on its side wall; the High Road is beyond), the Community Hub (used to be the Asian Centre) on the left, Morrisons to the north behind the pair of trees (with car parks around and on top of it), and the Mall’s service yard 5 to the south, giving onto the north end of the Mall, which is out of the picture. Sprawling over the middle of this area is the under-used library arcade (its roof edged in orange and white).

I suggest that the library arcade be removed, and the units that are still in use relocated in the Mall. This would leave a fairly large open space, with room for a covered market near Morrisons, and perhaps open fruit and veg stalls along the back wall of the library, sheltered by a pent roof. At present there is a branch of the Coop Bank along the back wall of the library (the image shows its roof as slightly higher than that of the arcade); if there is room for this to be retained, the fruit and veg stalls could back onto that instead.

29 bus passing the mall wood green with shoppers walking byThe main entrance to the Mall is in a dark, poky, polluted position under the bridge connecting the two sides of the shopping centre

The Mall is not by any stretch of the imagination an attractive building. It is at present a windowless box, but it could be vastly improved by opening it up with some windows and doors. In particular, its main entrance should be moved from its current dark, poky, polluted position under its bridge, round to the north end of the building, where it could perhaps open onto cafe tables and a play area (see plan below)! With maybe a cafe on an upper floor with a view over to Ally Pally (see the photograph at the top of the page). The Mall does not of course belong to the council – but post-pandemic, its owners may welcome some changes which would bring more people to visit it.

plan of area to north of the mall showing new e w cycle route and authors proposed new outdoor covered marketPlan of proposed new market area; labels in black are existing features, proposed ones are in blue

The plan above shows a wide space between the library and the Mall, where at present there is a squat brick building which houses Ezra’s Kitchen and a money exchange (see photo below). If these could be removed (and relocated), this would open up the market area to the High Road for pedestrians, while also allowing more space for the existing east-west cycle route linking Tottenham and Hornsey (also shown on the plan).

service yard 5 in wood green showing back of library and side of squat brick buildingService yard 5 and the back of the 'squat building' between the Mall and the library, with the High Road beyond.

In addition, more space for the cycle route where it continues on the other side of the High Road could be enabled by pruning service yard 1.
Cycle route 56 (London Cycle Network); importance of east-west connecƟvity in Wood Green, WGAAP pp.53 and 123, NLP p. 38

An octagonal covered market providing an inviting space for trade and community

The octagonal design for the covered market depicted on the plan above was suggested by the many historical examples of market buildings – from the medieval market cross in Chichester, to the 17th century Yarn Market in Dunster, the 18th century Market Cross in Barnard Castle, the 19th century City Market in Petersburg, Virginia, and the Halle des Chartrons in Bordeaux. It could provide an inviting space both for trading and community purposes, as well as fitting well in the space.

Its internal layout could be similar to that of market halls that have been rejuvenating town centres up and down the country (e.g. Altrincham See this Observer article from 2015. ) – with stalls around the walls, surrounding an open central area full of tables, including a communal dining area This is the layout in Altringham - see this 2018 Guardian article. . Ethnic food outlets run preferably by local residents could be interspersed with other stalls, including those for mending, upcycling and sharing clothes and equipment (some of the tables being used for these activities). Workshops could be run in conjunction with the existing Community Hub in Caxton Road. The emphasis would be on community, rather than the upmarket eateries found, for example, in Borough Market in Southwark.

The stalls would be smaller than the little shops in the existing Market Hall in the Mall, so hopefully not competing with them (this would need to be researched). The entrance to the existing Market Hall would now be near the new main entrance to the Mall, so not hidden away from public view in a corner as it is at present, and perhaps expanded to take in relocated units from the current library arcade (see rough sketch of the altered Mall overleaf). Or perhaps they could be moved to the main part of the Mall, together with Ezra’s Kitchen.

Businesses that are relocated would need to have the same rent/rates as they have at present, given that this is primarily a communal space more than a commercial venture.

The market area  WGAAP pp.122-5 could be a focal point for shoppers at Primark and the other big retail shops in and around the Mall  NLP p.39 – as well as for those attending the market or making use of the circular economy stalls. It would be within walking distance of the massive new developments in the Heartlands area, and within a few metres of the cultural quarter, with its new McQueens Theatre.

A new layout for the Mall?

plan showing authors proposed new ground floor layout for the mall wood green 2A rough sketch showing the author's suggestions for reconfiguring the Mall

The rough sketch above shows my proposed new layout for the ground floor of the Mall. It is adapted from the plan on the Mall's website (NB they have set Caxton Road much too close to the Mall!). The main entrance has been moved to the north end of the building (on the left) and opens into the area where service yard 5 is now.

The lifts are in the same place as now, but the doors are on the other side.

The market hall has been expanded to allow space for shop units which are currently in the Library Arcade. New Look has been reshaped (as has Primark, of course). Ezra’s Kitchen could perhaps be relocated next to the Mall’s new main entrance, as shown.

This article was edited on 6th October with a new title and some minor corrections and other small changes.

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