Historic garden suburb homes leave leaseholders ‘trapped’

Brickwork decoration on property

North London’s Noel Park Estate was developed around the turn of the 20th century. It was an early example of a garden suburb, but those now living in the houses believe their homes are unsaleable.

Let’s start at the beginning, and look at Noel Park’s orgins. Towards the end of the 1800s, five classes of houses were designed to be built at Noel Park to provide working class people with affordable housing.

The better first and second class homes were located in the centre and lower class homes further outside the centre of development. Each street in the garden suburb was built in its own distinct architectural design and style. Corner houses were built with more distinctive details, including turrets. Each class of home had a parlour, kitchen, scullery and back garden toilet, and the first class homes even had an upstairs toilet.

Separate bathrooms were not yet thought important so were not included in the designs – the bath was dragged out to be enjoyed in front of the fire.

Rail links allowed the workers living in these countryside garden homes to commute to their place of work in the city. However, the development was surrounded by further buildings by 1932, and in 1965 Noel Park became incorporated within the London Borough of Haringey.

The properties were built with front and back gardens and were planned as part of a self-contained community with a church and school. The only thing missing was a public house, which was against the priniciples of William Austin, founder of the Artizans, Labours & General Dwellings Company that built the homes – and none has existed to this day.

These principles also accounted for the small rooms, designed to discourage anyone from taking in lodgers, a practice frowned upon by the Artizans.

The 2,200 ‘model dwellings’ were purchased by the local council in 1966 and taken into public ownership.

In recognition of Noel Park Estate’s “Historical Significance”, the area was zoned as a Conservation Area and also made subject to an Article 4 Direction.
All works require planning permission.  The General Permitted Development Orders give automatic planning permission for certain types of work.  The Conservation Area Status and the Article 4 Direction effectively withdraw these rights, meaning that all works to Noel Park Estate properties require planning permission.

The estate is now occupied by council tenants and leasehold property owners. The properties at Noel Park have remained largely as they were built in terms of architecture, although a number of the homes sustained damage during the Second World War and some were demolished to provide room for Wood Green Shopping City.

A new programme of renovation work is now planned by Haringey Council, which says it has a ‘duty to maintain’ the properties.

The 1970s-built bathroom ‘pods’ attached to the rear of the properties are due to be replaced as part of a £11.3m renovation project, something leaseholders and the leader of Haringey Council say should have been done ‘years ago’. Other planned work includes new kitchens, windows and roofs.

It was announced in January that the project is going ahead for the council-owned properties first, while leasehold home owners have been told they will be expected to pay around £100,000 for their ‘share’ of the upgrades.

While their homes will be easier to sell in the future, many leaseholders now say the cost is unaffordable and now makes it impossible to them to either sell or remortgage their homes.