‘We not just a fried chicken shop – we’re the community’s beating heart’: Residents fight council plan that would ‘wipe them out’

It’s a late Wednesday afternoon in North London and Tottenham’s Chick-King is filled to the brim with customers patiently waiting for their fried chicken and chips as it begins to rain outside. Inside Chick-King there are community elders, school kids still dressed in their blazers and ties, a bus driver who has clocked off for the day, some builders popping in for a quick pit-stop and two boys who are eyeing up the menu above the serving counter.

Outside it’s gloomy and wet and the sky has just turned a shade of grey that even the ominous Tottenham Hotspur Stadium can’t seem to block out. But inside North London’s most famous chicken shop on Tottenham’s High Road, it is bright and warm and the atmosphere is lively even if it is a Wednesday.

Behind the serving counter is the man in charge of it all, Alex Tryfonos. The family-run business has been at the heart of the Tottenham community for 41 years and has earned the rep of being the best chicken shop around – consistently. It’s also born witness to two riots that happened in the area 1985 and in 2011. But as Alex, 60, told MyLondon: “We’ve seen two riots and a lot of stuff going on. It’s a lovely community despite what people say.”

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Alex and his family have run the Chick-King empire for over 40 years

Chick-King and its legacy means something different to everyone, but the word ‘community’ echoed from the mouths of every Haringey local MyLondon spoke to. This place which is at the beating heart of N17 is at risk of being demolished as part of Haringey Council’s regeneration plans, Alex claims. The area is very special to Alex, his family still live there and he first met his wife on Love Lane Estate.

“For years and years, no one wanted to come and visit Tottenham. But then when the football ground turned up everyone wanted to come here.” Alex explains. “The local community does not benefit from that. Which of the young people here are going to own a flat for £500,000? The developer came in and just stole the land that no one once wanted. All of a sudden it is now becoming a prime location.”

Alex, who is in a freehold property ownership and owns the land outright, is not the only businessman who could lose their spot on the High Road. Devrim Tangul, who has owned Tottenham Hot Spuds Cafe in White Hart Lane for more than 15 years, argues that the council cannot make a freehold into a leasehold if the land is not theirs to begin with.

Chick-King is loved by the Tottenham community and Spurs fans

Chick-King is loved by the Tottenham community and Spurs fans

He said: “At the end of the day, this land here does not belong to the council, it belongs to other people. It is freehold. How can you effectively take a freehold and give it back as a leasehold?”

The council’s High Road West scheme was launched in response to the 2011 London riots, an uprising which began in the area and saw the city burn for five nights after the police shot dead 29-year-old Tottenham local, Mark Duggan. On paper, the scheme promises to ‘create a vibrant, attractive and sustainable neighbourhood and a new sports and leisure destination for North London’ and stresses that Tottenham would not lose its ‘social driven housing character’.

Along with the promise of an attractive neighbourhood that’s still in touch with its heritage, the council plans to demolish the 297 homes on Love Lane Estate and build 2,929 new homes including 564 council homes, directly opposite the £1 billion Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

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The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium cost £1 billion to build and is the biggest club ground in London

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium cost £1 billion to build and is the biggest club ground in London

They also announced over 3,500 new jobs and more than 1,500 training opportunities as part of the development. However the scheme, approved back in December 2014, has raised questions for residents. Many told MyLondon they believe the original community is being left out of the council’s plans while others fear regeneration will price out locals and will be affordable for just the rich.

Abiba Paul, a resident who once lived on the Love Lane Estate for over a decade, tells MyLondon the council has fallen short of its promises. The 35-year-old believes the council’s priority is financial profit rather than making prioritising the community’s best interests.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Abiba moved out of her flat in 2016 and into a new council property. At the time she thought she had lucked out bad on the promise of a brand new council home – but six years on, the flat she once lived in remains exactly as it did back then.

Abiba lived on the Love Lane Estate for 11 years

Abiba lived on the Love Lane Estate for 11 years

“I’m quite happy now because it’s still the same way. They have people living in there temporarily who are disturbed by the football. It’s chock-a-block,” she said. “T he promises are nowhere to be seen, all the effects are definitely being felt –everyone who lives around the stadium is still struggling. See the regeneration proposal, everything seems good on paper, that’s the problem with this country, everything seems good in theory but when it comes to practice, it’s us lot that suffers. They promise us all of these things.”

Abiba’s brother, Verral Paul-Walcott agrees: “You j ust feel for these residents because they’re just caught in the middle and their futures are uncertain. They build new here and new there and they’re just sandwiched in the middle.” Verral, a teacher by day and a community hero by night, has been campaigning on behalf of the business owners and residents who are against the council’s current plans.

Verral believes change in an area can happen positively if everyone is included throughout the entire process. But for people like Alex, who has proudly served the community for decades, it’s now a matter of fighting to keep his spot not just for himself, but for the community.

Verral Paul-Walcott is a passionate advocator for the community

Verral Paul-Walcott is a passionate advocator for the community

“I’m all for people living in better conditions – that’s perfect, but if it doesn’t involve people that were living in the places to have rights to those spaces afterwards then it’s pointless,” he says. “I don’t think it’s fair that communities who sustain areas and pay business rates and council tax are then told to go because they want new people to come in.”

Chick-King has also gone above and beyond when it comes to helping others in times of need. Alex gives away meals for free to homeless people or to those who simply cannot afford it. “People can still come if they don’t have the money,” he told MyLondon.

Justin Watson, a long-time friend of Verral’s who advocates on the same issues and supports the community, has lived in the area his whole life, never settling too far away from his beloved Tottenham. “I’m part of the fabric of North London and have been there ever since, same as my family,” he proudly says.

Justin is a long-time friend of Verral's

Justin is a long-time friend of Verral’s

The 38-year-old recalls how he gained some of the best advice and life lessons simply from talking to the older generation at Caribbean restaurants when he was younger, he says his life could have gone down a different path if he did not have his mentors to look up to.

“If you don’t have a father or mother figure in your family and you come to a place like Chick-King or several other takeaways or restaurants, you have that engagement – they ask you how you’re doing, it’s also therapeutic,” Justin argues.

He added: “So to remove these entities from these communities, well you are potentially damaging the community – from mentoring to engagement to therapy. This is a very tough area to be bought up in. so removing this from the community is definitely not the way to go.”

Residents and businesses remain concerned over council's regeneration plans

Residents and businesses remain concerned over council’s regeneration plans

The concerns raised by Alex, Devrim and Verral, Abiba and Justin has seen Tottenham Hotspur shaking its head in disapproval over the regeneration plans. Most recently in March, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy wrote a comprehensive, three-page letter to the council explaining his disapproval of the current plans.

He wrote: “We are extremely concerned that this application not only lets down our communities and residents, but that it utterly fails to live up to even the most basic of aspirations that the council set for positive change in the area. What is coming before the planning committee has no socio-economic or community benefits to speak of.

“It is plainly and simply a dense housing estate of up to 3,000 homes. There is no mixed-use – the proposals are for up to 97 per cent residential uses. The total space secured for indoor sports and recreation use is just 500 square metres across the whole area.”

The power of the chairman’s letter has allowed for a delay in the approval of the next stage of the High Road West development, with a decision not now expected in June. However, people like Alex remain in limbo over the future of his business, as well as his livelihood, while Verral and Justin have become a voice for the community.

Tottenham Hotspur wrote a letter of disapproval over the current regeneration plans

Tottenham Hotspur wrote a letter of disapproval over the current regeneration plans

A Haringey Council spokesperson told MyLondon: “The council is committed to working with businesses to find suitable relocation options that meet their individual requirements and aspirations. In the first instance we are looking at a small row of shops, most of which are already leasehold properties. We are helping to support them in moving to appropriate premises.

“Detailed discussions with businesses north of White Hart Lane have yet to take place, and we look forward to working with them in the future. We recently balloted our residents, who voted ‘yes’ to progress the High Road West Scheme. This will deliver 500 affordable, high-quality council homes, including new homes for all eligible existing Love Lane residents, along with a major regeneration of the area, including a new health centre, library, open spaces and employment opportunities that will benefit a large number of people in the local area.”

A spokesperson for Lendlease, the property developer working on the High Road West plans said: “We’re working with the local community, and providing support for Haringey Council, on a scheme that will help re-energise this proud and historic area of London by delivering vital new and affordable housing, jobs and open space.”

Are you a Londoner worried about change in your area? Get in touch with Ruby by writing to her at [email protected]

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