Community Benefit Society to bid for Wards Corner leaseA new membership organisation wants the site to be run by the community, for the community
A Community Benefit Society (CBS) has been established to bid for the lease on the iconic Wards Corner building in Seven Sisters.
Launched this week (2nd August), the CBS was founded by a coalition of grassroots organisations, including the N15 Development Trust and the Seven Sisters Market Traders Association, which represents 74% of licensed indoor traders from Wards Corner (also known as Latin Village).
Community Benefit Societies are a form of cooperative organisation often utilised by community pubs, such as the Antwerp Arms in Bruce Grove. They are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and established for the benefit of the community, rather than members. The Wards Corner CBS will work on the bid to obtain the lease for the Wards Corner site (which is owned by TfL) over a three-month period, from September to December. If the bid is successful, the CBS will then facilitate a ‘community plan’ for Wards Corner, which involves renovating the building, providing affordable rent for retail and developing cultural and social spaces.
Elara Shurety, secretary of the CBS, said: “The society will deliver the bid, but also – once we win – carry out the process of management and restoration.
“We'll make that process democratic, and something that will benefit the community in perpetuity. The surplus that will be generated through rent is something that the CBS will then have a key role in redistributing throughout Tottenham.”
Last year, activists like Elara celebrated a win after property developer Grainger abandoned plans to build 190 flats on the site. However, the market has been closed for over two years now, while the building’s upper levels have been empty for over half a century. The CBS hopes to turn it into a community asset and restore the building to its former glory (in its heyday, Wards Corner was an up-scale department store known as the “Selfridges of the north”).
A minority of Wards Corner traders are supporting a competing bid for the site; the Creative Land Trust wants to turn the building into artist studios, and has the backing of the Market Traders and Workers Union for Seven Sisters.
The CBS is currently inviting members of the public to join as registered supporters. A board will be elected at a later date and, in the long term, members of the public will be invited to purchase shares in the society.
“This is a one member, one vote organisation,” said Elara. “Which means that everyone who joins has the exact same voting power, you don't get more votes, depending on the number of shares you have.”
Carlos Burgos, founder of the N15 Development Trust, echoed this: “The structure allows everybody to have a voice and ensures equality of voice, unlike other companies where the amount of shares you have determines how many votes you get. This way, we can say that [the CBS] is by the community and for the community in real terms.”
For more information on the Wards Corner Community Benefit Society, visit wardscorner.org/cbs