Haggerston Pool – ‘consultation’ – what consultation?

Following Hackney Council’s announcement that they are undertaking a feasibility study into the reopening of Haggerston Baths, a Haggerston Baths Building Steering Group has been established. To begin with the Council refused to invite Pool Campaign reps to their meetings. Fortunately, they have since been persuaded to back down and reps are now included on the steering group. Naturally, they have also employed a consultant to look into the future of the building.

It is understood that 3 options will be put to the Council’s cabinet in January. While the Council has publicly committed itself to reopening the building, there is yet no guarantee that it will be reopened as a swimming pool, something that local residents have consistently demanded.

Consultation thus far has not involved those that Hackney Independent feels are a priority in any decision-making. The question therefore remains, when will Hackney Council (if ever) undertake a proper public consultation exercise, one that includes the people that really matter: local tenants and residents?

New Labour talks a good game when it comes to the usual buzzwords: ‘accountability’, ‘transparency’, ‘choice’, resident ‘participation’, local democracy, but the reality is decisions are made beforehand behind closed (cabinet) doors. Local tenants and residents are routinely ignored by these processes, and when they are consulted, the questions are often designed to make it very difficult for people to express their real views and guarantee a positive outcome – in other words asking the wrong questions to get the right answers. However it doesn’t have to be like this.

Hackney Independent calls for the results of the consultation so far to be made public; and for the Council to ask local tenants and residents their opinion of the future of Haggerston Pool before their cabinet makes its decision. Is their failure to conduct any public consultation due to the fact that they know what we want? Are they afraid of the fact that local tenants and residents demand the reopening of the building as a swimming pool, a community facility at affordable prices, without privatisation or luxury flats? Long term we’d like to see public ballots on issues like this, but a proper consultation would be a positive first step towards genuine local democracy.

When Hollywood comes to Broadway market!

Tony, at Francesca’s

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…

Hackney Gazette – Sinking with the Mortgage

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.

Gazette Editorial

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.