Arthur Shuter brings us up to date with the Council’s gentrification plans in Dalston.
At a hearing before the High Court on Monday 18th September, the second injunction achieved by OPEN Dalston against the demolition of the former Dalston Theatre/Four Aces Club and the associated buildings was lifted.
OPEN now has 28 days to decide on the merits of applying for a further injunction.
This outcome was virtually inevitable, as Hackney Planning Sub-Committee had already granted Planning Consents to the London Development Agency to build a row of tower blocks above the new underground station at Dalston Junction and on the Dalston Theatre site.
The Dalston Lane South Planning Application had to go before the Committee twice because the planners had made a number of omissions at the first hearing and several amendments were required, although the Planning Sub-Committee also automatically approved these, despite the mass of genuine and well argued objections.
During the High Court hearing on Monday, Hackney Council generously agreed not to commence the demolition of the Dalston Theatre buildings for the next 28 days.
One of the reasons for this is, of course, because it would be rather dangerous to demolish buildings which still have people in them.
On 20th February 2006, a group of well organised and dedicated occupiers took possession of the Georgian houses at the north-west corner of the site and of Dalston Theatre itself. Later that day, a representative from Hackney Property Services and a number of Hackney Council agents unlawfully entered the Dalston Theatre building and security staff have remained in place ever since, at considerable cost to local taxpayers.
It could be argued that the occupiers of the site have now achieved what they set out to do by delaying the demolition of the buildings months past 2 previous deadlines set by Hackney Council, beyond which they claimed the development would be doomed if the demolition did not go ahead on time.
However, certain points need to be taken into careful consideration:
1. In stating clearly that the new developments would be certain not to go ahead if the site was not completely cleared, first in April 2006 and then by July 2006, Council Officers deliberately lied to the Planning Committee and to the attending members of the public and press.
2. Knowing that their actions were unlawful, Council officers and contractors forced entry to an occupied building to speed up the recovery process, although they were aware that Court documents were necessary and were not in place.
3. Hackney Council has negligently squandered well over £ 100,000 of local funding to secure and protect a building which only they meant any harm to.
4. With the 2012 Olympic Games due to result in the closure of the Hackney Wick bus garage, Transport for London have donated £10 million to the Dalston scheme, in return for which they will be rewarded with a brand new bus station, surrounded by tower blocks and built on top of a 7′ high concrete slab, through which upwards of 100 buses per hour will pass from and into local traffic.
5. The ODPM has also donated a further £10 million of public money into the scheme, although only 16 of the many hundreds of new residential units will be available for social housing. This is an absolute gift to private sector property developers who will be rubbing their greasy palms as they too go cap-in-hand to the ODPM to receive similar treatment, knowing they will certainly win any law suit if the Government tries to say no.
6. Council Officers and members of the Planning Sub-Committee have totally disregarded the substantive arguments put forward against the proposed developments and have put in place no safeguards to protect local amenities or essential services. The cost of doing so will now fall on others!
7. The London Development Agency is subject to various conditions and agreements which are built into the Planning Consents. However, the LDA has an atrocious record for abiding by such conditions or agreements in their past local dealings. Shortly before standing down as a Queensbridge Ward Councillor and as Chair of the Planning Sub-Committee, Bill Hodgson severely criticised the LDA for their short-comings in this respect, yet 2 hours later his Committee approved the first stage of the mammoth building project in Dalston Lane. Once the development goes ahead, the gutless, weak willed local politicians and officials will be powerless to prevent the same from happening all over again.
8. Hackney Council is now to allow the building of a number of tower blocks in Dalston. These will be up to 19 storeys high and will be privately financed and will predominantly be for sale or rent to the private sector. Tower Hamlets Council has just rejected a tower block scheme. But that is for just one block. The applicant in that case is the CRISIS and Genesis Housing Group (best known to us through their subsidiary Pathmeads who have private contracts to manage Hackney Council estates in the North of the Borough) and the units were for homeless and vulnerable people. One of the main objectors to that scheme, on the grounds that it ‘does not fit in’ was Hackney Council. So our Council not only wants to suck up even more to property developers, it has now formed its own policy for local social cleansing.
9. Barratt Homes has now been named as the development partner which will work with the LDA to impose on the people of Hackney a new row of tower blocks for Dalston which will replace those which were spectacularly blown up a short distance away just a few years ago because they were deemed to be socially unacceptable. Maybe Hackney New Labour thinks that tower blocks for poor people are a bad thing, but tower blocks for rich people are a good thing. More likely the demolition was a chance to drive out a part of Hackney’s working class community out, and the new Dalston tower blocks are a chance to bring more trendy rich young New Labour supporters in. This is social cleansing, pure and simple.
Over the past 12 months and longer, we have fought tooth and nail to halt the relentless progress of corrupt, devious and unscrupulous private sector property developers who have, by whatever means they see fit, grabbed every available inch of local land to amass even greater fortunes by building ever higher blocks of rabbit hutches for people with more money than sense.
Hackney Council has now proven that these private sector developers still have a great deal to learn about how things can be done, just so long as you can get away with it.
Before we all sit back and say to ourselves ‘ah well, the Dalston Lane occupiers put up a good fight but there is not much we can do now, everyone needs to reflect on exactly what has been happening and must decide whether the time has now come to take positive action to seek to halt this decline.
For the demolition of the Theatre buildings to go ahead, there must first be an eviction. I feel sure that the planning for this is well under way already. But it will be no simple task and will require a mass of police manpower.
The final opportunity to support the occupiers now presents itself. This can be achieved by lobbying local Councillors, M.P.s, the police, the Black Police Association, the press and media, local and national activist groups and the local population as a whole to ensure that, no matter what the final outcome may be, those responsible understand that people will not take much more.
Please show your support for the Dalston occupiers in whatever way you can. Time is running out for them and they have done their very best for us all.
Hackney Independent has been pleased to see some discussion of regeneration and gentrification in the Hackney Gazette recently.
The saga commenced with a letter from New Labour’s recently elected Haggerston Councillor, Barry Buitekant:
“Last week’s Gazette (June 29) said three new stations are to open on the extension of East London line at Dalston, Haggerston and Shoreditch.
I’m pleased to say that there will be a fourth new station at Hoxton. The opening of the East London line extension will strengthen the regeneration of the area already underway.”
This letter was responded to the next edition by Paul Fitzpatrick:
“In last week’s Gazette Cllr Buitekant wrote, ‘the opening of the East London line extension will strengthen the regeneration of the area already underway’.
Such a dishonest and uncritical view of “regeneration” is what we have to expect from New Labour politicians in Hackney and elsewhere.
Councillor Buitekant has been newly elected to represent the people of Haggerston, the majority of whom have failed to derive any benefit so far whatsoever from the so-called regeneration of the area.
The proliferation of luxury flats along Kingsland Road, together with trendy bars and restaurants, I am sure is very welcome to Councillor Buitekant and his New Labour friends, but hardly represents the needs of the majority of his constituents.
How about “strengthening” instead some regeneration that will benefit the area’s majority, like building truly affordable housing, reopening Haggerston Pool or investing in sustainable youth facilities?
But, of course, while this would directly benefit local working class people, it is of no interest to the kind of rich young settlers who now run Hackney Labour Party.”
The Gazette also provided the following editorial:
“The banks of the borough’s waterways, for years grimy neglected backwaters, have recently become giant construction sites.
All along Hackney’s stretch of the River Lea and Regent’s Canal disused timber wharves and warehouses have been bulldozed. Rising phoenix-like in their place are steel and glass waterside developments. While some include a percentage of “affordable” or shared-ownership homes (otherwise they would never have received planning approval), few, if any, are on the waterfront.
Those desirable prime-site properties are for the wealthy – well beyond the pocket of most folk earning an average wage.
Inevitably such regeneration changes the borough dempgraphic with the so-called yuppie professional classes moving into up-and-coming areas and pushing up property prices. It’s an uncomfortable thought, but isn’t that a form of social engineering by any other name?”
An edited version of this statement by Hackney Independent member Peter Sutton appeared in the Hackney Gazette on 25th May 2006:
How did we get almost exactly the same council following the elections?
We started with 44 Labour councillors, 9 Tories in Lordship, New River and Springfield, 3 Lib Dems in Cazenove and Andrew Boff representing theTories in Queensbridge. We ended up with 44 Labour councillors, the Tories and Lib Dems holding their wards in Stamford Hill and the Greens taking one seat in Clissold.
What is clear to us is that Labour put no real effort into the 4 wards in Stamford Hill that are still represented by the 9 Tory and 3 Lib Dem councillors. We never see these tame twelve taking on New Labour as they have no major political disagreements with them. They all agree with the ALMO, with privatising council services and with the regeneration/gentrification policies of New Labour. Lib Dem Leader Ian Sharer used to be a Labour councillor and probably would be again if they would let him join. Many of the Tories ran the council jointly with Labour during the Labour-Tory pact 6 years ago This was the time that brought us the Clissold Pool fiasco and the joint agreement to close Haggerston Pool.
Instead Labour’s electoral machine turned its fire on what they saw as threats to the status quo – maverick Lib Dem David Phillips in Hoxton, Tory populist Andrew Boff in Queensbridge and Hackney Independent in Haggerston.
The irony here is that we find it hard to tell the difference between the policies of New Labour, David Phillips and Andrew Boff. They all support privatisation. Boff supports the sale off Council-owned shops, he just thinks the Tories could do it more fairly and competently than Labour. However Phillips and Boff are campaigners and get in the Gazette and get out on the estates promoting their own parties, unlike the tame 12 in Stamord Hill. This is what drew Labour’s fire.
If only New Labour ran Hackney anything like as well as they fight elections. Hoxton, Haggerston and Queensbridge saw more of Jules Pipe and the New Labour leadership in the 4 weeks before the election than we did in the past 4 years.
We fear Labour’s hidden agenda for the next 4 years, that wasn’t in their glossy election leaflets, including:
* turning their Hackney Homes project into a housing association and giving it our council estates
* pushing through more privately-sponsored City Academies
* handing over the East of the borough to Olympic developers, who after 2012 will hand it over to big business
* building private flats on green spaces on our estates
* no new council housing but plenty more luxury flats
* more pay rises for councillors
* planning permission granted to property developers against the wishes of local communities
Is the only opposition to be the Green Party that thinks Hackney’s problems are not enough solar panels or missed recycling targets? Hackney Independent members are already in discussion with groups and individuals around the borough to play our part in opposing the New Labour hidden agenda.
If you want to talk to us about how best we can work together to keep Hackney for the people, contact us.
Residents of the Whiston and Goldsmiths’ estates – and especially those in Debdale Court – are less than impressed with Hackney Council and British Waterways over the proposed development at Acton’s Lock. Squeezed between Debdale Court and the Regents Canal at the Eastern End of Whiston Road, the five-story building will comprise 25 flats and a restaurant.
It was given planning permission by Hackney Council in August, however Residents of Debdale Court, whose block will be dwarfed by the new building and whose views of the canal will disappear, have told Hackney Independent that the first they were aware of the proposed development was the receipt of a leaflet late in 2005, after planning permission was awarded. This makes a mockery of British Waterways commitment to consultation. Their website gushes: “Our canals and rivers pass through local communities across the length and breadth of the country. Waterway development is often closely linked to community aspirations and social issues at the local level. It is essential that the views of local communities are fully represented and effectively listened to. We are committed to getting the processes of dialogue and accountability absolutely right.” Right.
Typically, such rhetoric about ‘consultation’ hides the reality on the ground. ‘A similar development was proposed here about five years ago,’ says a Debdale resident, ‘but a petition and local pressure stopped it. There’s been no consultation with residents this time round. There’s no-one at Hackney Council who’ll tell you what’s going on.’ Hackney Council has decided to invite resident input into policy about the sale of its commercial properties, having been forced to by recent high-profile campaigns in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane. Hackney Independent would like to see this extended to all new developments in residential areas. Acton’s Lock is yet another example of ‘regeneration’ impacting negatively on the local communities it is supposed to benefit.
The Broadway Market Resident and Traders Association (BMTRA) have taken issue with Hackney Independent’s views and argue that the Saturday Market is positive for the regeneration of the area. We have therefore given Louise Brewood, Chair of the BMTRA, the opportunity to put the BMTRA’s side of the story so you can decide what you think of their arguments.
Our viewpoint is under the article
Do you still stand by the view that the Saturday Market is positive for the regeneration of the area around Broadway Market?
Yes I do. I believe it’s an amazing catalyst for bringing people together. People from all types of background, financially, economically, socially. It’s beginning to become a platform for the community. It’s real urban space because it’s grown up itself. My fear though is that the property market would go nuts and it has. It’s gone nuts quicker than we anticipated.
Are you acting in the best interests of the local community?
Yes. Most definitely. If I didn’t believe in what I was doing, I wouldn’t be doing it.
The market came about because of about 70 people, most of them long-term residents of over 20 years or local shopkeepers, which includes Spirit and Tony. They wanted to bring in a handful of stalls that sold locally produced goods, environmentally friendly, because that’s the sort of food they wanted and they didn’t want to go to supermarkets. It was never meant to be this massive market but we expected it to take 6 or7 years to grow, we never expected it to happen in 6 weeks. It was a runaway success from day one.
What about people on low incomes?
Do you think the market’s prices reflect local needs?
This is the biggest one…. people are beginning to change their opinion. The reason Broadway Market is such a success is because I wouldn’t look at the market as a market. Initially it was really about having good quality food and my involvement was to make sure that a handful of stalls didn’t clash with current shops. This is the only market I know in the whole country where the market is about the people who live and work directly in that street, everyone’s had an involvement and a say. When people accuse me of the market being this and that I say to them “Have you been down there? Come down with me, let me take you into Henry’s (on Broadway Market) there you can buy a really good piece of cheese, same as you can in the supermarket. Let me take you back to the supermarket to their finest range.
Their finest range is more expensive than what you’re getting direct from the producers in my market”. I tell everybody, if you want a cheap market you can go to the other markets. Ridley Road is a fine market. I know it’s got problems but it is one of the country’s biggest and best markets for everyday stuff.
But it’s not local for the people who live near Broadway Market
No. I agree but you’ve got that option. Why should local people have to go all the way over to Ridley Road market for affordable fresh food? Haven’t you created an upmarket food ghetto on Broadway Market?
Yeah. That’s what it was meant to do. Who let the market die in the first place?
Where are all the stalls that these people say should be here giving them what they want? Why did they go away in the first place? Because people stopped using this market. They went to supermarkets instead. They let it die. We all let it die. If any one from the local estates wanted to do (something similar) they could have done it too. We’re just a bunch of ordinary people. They could’ve done it themselves. The longstanding businesses (on Broadway Market) would not have been here now if we’d not introduced the market.
What do you think are the social costs of gentrification?
Scary. It’s not spreading wealth fairly and evenly. It’s only providing for some, which creates resentment from others. And that’s wrong. But nobody has the right to condemn a bunch of people who got together and did something they wanted to do as volunteers. Sadly, what we’ve done has kind of been sabotaged by those who do want to gentrify the area. Regeneration I do think is good thing but regeneration through gentrification is a bad thing.
How will you be using the revenue from the market to benefit the local area?
Simple things like raising funds for various projects. We try to support local events if we can and when the tsunami happened we raised 2 grand in less than 8 hours.
My personal dream in getting involved (with the market) was to do local things. Because we’re a ‘not for profit’ organisation, anything we make has to be put back into what we’re doing. Everything should benefit the local and wider community. We raised money at Christmas (around about £1000) and half that money went into putting on a half-days football tournament on the fields for local youngsters. Ultimately we want to get a local youth club up and running.
So meeting all local needs and not just a particular group?
Yes. Like my market. I believe that the whole market is important. Every shop and stall is part of a shopping experience and you must cater for all needs. Spirit and Tony would both tell you that without the market their businesses were struggling anyway. We have to meet all local needs and I believe the market does that. The area, sadly, is not doing that and that is down to politics and money and fat cats and that’s wrong because if all this money’s being made it should be going back into areas of deprivation.
The Hackney Independent view
In 2004, Hackney Independent published an interview with a local resident and the results of an estate survey which were critical of the Broadway Market Saturday Market. In the survey we found that most estate residents were glad to see some activity in the market, but clearly recognised that it is not aimed at them, ie that it is ‘exclusive’ and too expensive for the majority of local working-class residents. 83% of those surveyed on the Whiston and Goldsmiths estates said the market not aimed at us and 93% said the market is too expensive.
Hackney Independent, and many local people, are of the opinion that the Saturday Market is contributing to the gentrification of the area. The campaign for Tony’s Café and Spirit’s Nutritious Food Gallery has recently emphasised this issue. The ‘invasion’ of unaccountable property developers means that small businesses that cater for local people are being forced out of the market.
Those who are using the market have no idea that the area is becoming divided – between a working class majority who are having to put up with bad housing and run down services, and a new breed of rich, self-interested young professionals. This is not merely an accident of the property market. The gentrification of the area is something that is urged on by Hackney Council’s regeneration plans. As they privatise public services, shut down community services, run down estates and close schools they want to bring in a new class of people with money to ‘improve the area’.
Albeit unwittingly, the Saturday Market, by excluding local people, is, we believe, contributing to the process of gentrification. Indeed, even the new coffee shops and boutiques that have opened on Broadway Market over the last few years will eventually themselves fall victim to increased rents and property development if this process is not arrested. No-one wants to see a street of Starbucks and Estate Agents that you can find in any other ‘regenerated’ street in London.
Hackney Independent say the Saturday market is accelerating the gentrification process, pushing working class people out of the area by increasing the cost of living and the price of housing.
On January 21 an article appeared in the Independent newspaper that would cause any sane person to choke on their breakfast.
Entitled ‘Hipper than Hoxton: why Haggerston is the place to be’, it took its lead from the new edition of the Lonely Planet guide to London. In this book Haggerston was described as one of the “chic new neighbourhoods” that makes the capital such a “dynamic and buzzing place”.
This fabulous claim was based upon a review of one restaurant, a pub and the “thriving Saturday farmers’ market”.
In the Independent article a declaration of war was read out by the owner of the Cat and Mutton ‘gastropub’, Kevin Cooper: “Actually we are pretty much on the frontline of gentrification. The White Lightning brigade – the cider favoured by drunks and derelicts – have not entirely disappeared, but it’s now so much better than Shoreditch.”
Thanks for that contribution Kev. We would boycott the pub in protest but nobody with any taste would be seen dead in the Cat and Mutton anyway.
Still, the benefits of progress and change mean that we can now pay £3 for a cup of Caffè Latte – even if we do have to drink it in the ruins of a community.
Hackney Independent has recently mourned the closure of Francesca’s Café on Broadway Market – the latest victim of the gentrification of the area which has seen shop rents increase at the expense of decent, affordable outlets for local working class residents.
Lately we have also witnessed the closure of the upmarket ‘Little Georgia’ restaurant on the Broadway, another victim of rent increases, but one that indicates that even the original gentrifiers are not immune from the self-same process. (See our letters page for coverage of debate on this in the Hackney Gazette.)
Irony of ironies is that this last week, film crews – which have in the past used the Market for its gritty realism – have been seen ‘dressing down’ the site of the ‘Little Georgia’, which is now another new upmarket restaurant, to look like a traditional local working-class café!?
Hackney Independent, we are sure, don’t need to point out the absurdity this situation.
Indeed, as they say, you couldn’t make it up if you tried…
Home owners in South Hackney and Shoreditch are spending up to a third their wages on mortgage repayments.
The area has been named as the worst place in the country for property owners expecting to part with more of their hard-earned cash to pay their mortgage.
Andy Gray, head of mortgages for the Woolwich, said that the top 50 least affordable areas are more likely to be up-and-coming neighbourhoods rather than ones with high property prices.
He explained that in certain areas, including South Hackney and Shoreditch, many borrowers were spending a higher proportion of earnings on repayments.
“Places like Hackney tend to attract young professionals who will borrow as much as they can to get a property in the next up-and-coming area,” said Mr Gray.
“They are hoping hat property prices will increase quickly as the area gentrifies and are also confident that as young professionals their earnings will rise quickly to drive down their mortgage payments as a percentage of income.”
The price of an average three-bedroom house in South Hackney and Shoreditch is now more than £300,000, according to estate agents, Bunch and Duke, in Mare Street, Hackney.
Prices have risen rapidly over the past three years and buyers are expected to pay out more of their income on a mortgage here than anywhere else.
Property owners paid 26.5 of their income on mortgage repayments in 2002. That figure has now increased to 32.8 percent.
South Hackney and Shoreditch is followed closely by Brent East, Vauxhaull, Poplar and Caning Town and Brent South as areas in which buyers spend most of their incomes on mortgage repayments.
Having a mortgage can be a financial millstone around your neck, so a study showing what percentage of their salary home owners spend on repayments may make folk think twice about getting on the property ladder in Hackney. The average amount of net wages Londoners use to repay their home loans is 23 per cent, but in popular areas like Hackney South and Shoreditch the proportion of earnings which go towards repayments, according to the Woolwich, is as much as 33 per cent or a third! That’s because many buyers attracted to the area are young professionals who borrow as much as they can, gambling that property prices will increase quickly and their earnings will rise at the same rate to drive down their percentage of income spent on repayments.
As a result up-and-coming areas like South Hackney are among the least affordable in the capital because many buyers are not among the top earners.
If home owners in the south of the borough are paying up to a third of their earnings in mortgage repayments, that means they have less in their pockets to spend on the high street, and that can only be bad news for the local economy.
It covers a meeting held on Tuesday by the Broadway Traders & Residents‘ Association and led by Queensbridge Tory Councillor Andrew Boff. The meeting was largely attended by a middle class audience with a few exceptions.
FOCUS ON CORRUPTION
The meeting was prompted by the closing of the upmarket ‘Little Georgia’ restaurant. We note that that there were no meetings called when much more socially useful shops closed or Tony‘s Cafe (Francesca‘s) closed recently. Councillor Boff says that he is concerned that the market is going backwards because of the ‘greed’ of developers, and focussed on how council corruption that has led to the selling off of council-owned shops to off-shore developers.
A local lawyer has been researching the background to several of the sell-offs in Broadway Market and claims to have found several cases where the council has been involved in doing deals with developers behind the back of shopkeepers who could have bought their leases. He has been taking the council to task but has not managed to get any straight answers from them in response to his allegations.
A representative from the Dalston area updated people about the recent sell-off of Dalston Lane properties. It seems that these were carried out in the same way as the 2001 Broadway Market sell-off – local shop keepers were sidelined by property developers who were given preferential treatment by the Council’s estate agents, Nelson Bakewell. The meeting was told that Nelson Bakewell sold an entire parade of shops on Dalston Lane as a job lot for almost half their total combined asking price to an overseas developer that already owns 10 properties in Broadway Market.
Councillor Boff is willing to stand up and say that there has been corruption in the Council and it is clear he wants to make political capital out of this and position himself as a champion of Broadway Market.
The view from some traders and residents is that they want to see laws put in place that mean that properties are only sold with conditions that they stay in local hands (no overseas developers) and are used for ‘community’ use. By community, the Traders Association seem to mean the ‘community’ of young professionals that could afford to frequent places like Little Georgia – people friendly to many of the shop keepers’ agenda of creating a middle class ‘urban village’ with little to offer the majority of local people.
The majority view in the meeting seemed to be that the sale of council-owned shops is fine, as long as the shops are sold to people like them, not big developers.
There was no mention of related issues that have shaped the area like gentrification or the privatisation of council housing and services. The traders do not seem to accept that many local people feel that the Farmers Market is not for them. Their agenda is very narrow – they want to fend off big chains like Starbucks and freeze the gentrification process at a particular point. Ultimately the shopkeepers want to be protected from the excesses of the free-market whilst enjoying its immediate benefits.
We have seen this gentrification process at first hand in “Hoxton”/South Shoreditch, Spitalfields and Islington‘s Upper Street. First comes the arty/hip shops and bars, then the place becomes popular, then the rents come up, big business pushes out the artists and “cutting edge” trendy bars and shops. At this point those who did nothing for the working class majority except price us out of their new shops and close our pubs expect us to help them or at least feel sorry for them when they get pushed out in turn.
New Labour’s William Hodgson, councillor for Queensbridge and head of Planning did turn up to the meeting. The Hackney Independent have not seen him since we saw him mouthing obscenities and gesturing at us at the 2002 election count where Labour narrowly beat our candidate.
Whereas Andrew Boff at least seems to be interested in local issues (though from a middle class perspective) Hodgson has an arrogant attitude to his role as a councillor and seem annoyed to even have to attend the meeting.
When one local started laying into him, he was protected by the Chair who told everyone ‘he’s on our side’. Not on our side, mate!
Hodgson also refused to take any responsibility for things done before he was in office. His basic role at the meeting was to keep repeating his New Labour mantra: “historically the council has done a bad job of managing properties so therefore I think it is best to sell them. The council should deliver services not manage properties. So it is our duty to get the ‘best price’ for ‘your’ properties as a duty to the borough. It is hard for us to guarantee that anything stays in the hands of community businesses”.
His argument was attacked as obviously many of the sales in Broadway Market and Dalston Lane have hardly been at ‘best price’! The reality is that commercial properties have usually sold at cheapest price to the developers after tenants have been sidelined from their right to buy.
Despite these attacks Hodgson’s solution to everything still seemed to be offloading more properties onto the free market. This sums up Labour‘s view perfectly – but not just with shops – it is the same with council housing, schools, leisure … They don’t want to own anything, they want to sell it and stand back and let market forces provide. This makes them no different from the Conservatives or Lib Dems and of no use to us whatsoever.
Although Councillor Boff seems to be more engaged with local issues and does a better job than Queensbridge‘s Labour councillors, his position on Broadway Market has two major flaws. Firstly his party shared power with Labour during part of the time of the mass sell-off of shops and of course did nothing to stop it. Secondly he believes in the free-market. He does not disagree with the council selling off the shops, so his only tactic is to say there was corruption in the process. The problem with the free market is that it will inevitably drive out smaller businesses if there is money to be made. So all the help Andrew Boff has put into helping establish the Saturday market has inevitably led to the increase of popularity in the area which in turn leads to pricing out local businesses.
The Gazette editorial summed up the meeting very well:
“It is ironic that the ward’s only Tory councillor slams the damaging effect of putting so many properties in the hands of a few real estate speculators and warns the future of the area is at the whim of property developers. Until there is evidence to the contrary, we can assume there is nothing shady or unlawful about what has happened and it is simply the consequence of a free-market economy – an ideology championed by Thatcherism and usually embraced by all Conservatives, shopkeepers and traders.
There is no accidental process going on in Broadway Market. Selling their commercial properties was not just to balance the council’s books when they ran short of money. The council don’t want to hold on the shops, or have any other plan to provide shops and service of use to most of us. The process is ‘institutional’ gentrification‚ at work, not just corruption on the side of a few fat cats.
We don’t want Starbucks to come in, but we also don’t need shops for new rich young settlers discovering this ‘fabulous shopping street’ in the ‘gritty’ east end. We want Broadway Market back serving local people as shops and market stalls selling goods at affordable prices.