History of WERA
By Joyce Rosser, originally written for the 20th anniversary newsletter in 2016.
The birth of WERA in 1996 was due to the committee of the campaigning group Save the Environment of the Palace and Park (STEPP) pointing out that we were the only area adjacent to Alexandra Park without representation on the APP Statutory Advisory Committee. Jack Noutch was already involved in STEPP. Two STEPP committee members suggested he approach David Liebeck to be chair. There had been an earlier residents association called Priory RA but that collapsed about 1980, so it was decided to call the new group the Warner Estate RA and restrict it to the roads on the north side of Priory Road.
WERA’s first AGM got off to a flying start as McDonald’s had applied for a 90-seat restaurant with drive-through facilities at the bottom of Alexandra Palace Way (where the Safestore Centre now is). A representative of No to McDonald’s (NOMAC) spoke at the AGM. Everyone was encouraged to sign a petition objecting to the planning application and to attend the various protest meetings. Fortunately the proposal never went ahead.
Another plan surfaced at the same time – to develop the Hornsey Waterworks and Depot site (on Hornsey High Street) with housing and a Sainsbury’s superstore. Chris Warburton from Hornsey Information Planning Exchange (HIPE) attended our AGM to speak against the plan. In spite of a massive campaign and a public inquiry, the development received planning permission. But it did not go ahead. Subsequently, New River Village was built.
Over the years, other plans were discussed for the depot site but it wasn’t until 2014 that a new plan to build 483 housing units and a large Sainsbury’s got planning permission. Opposition has been largely based on concerns about the huge increase in traffic that will result from the superstore, but there was also a desire to retain the historic 1930s public baths frontage. However the development is underway. The developers made two concessions to heritage: calling it ‘Smithfield Square’ after the Smithfield engineering works which used to be in Cross Lane; and retaining the Hornsey Borough doorway to the baths building in a new location.
Over the years since 1996, WERA has dealt with all sorts of issues, many relating to Alexandra Palace and the park, but also concerning areas such as council services, transport, traffic and local history. For instance, we had a collection for a memorial bench for Paul Eddington, the actor who used to live in our patch, and collections for two popular local postmen. We are one of the most successful and active residents associations in Haringey with a large membership.