Tag Archives: gentrification

Hackney against Developers

Café Francesca in Broadway Market, Hackney has been occupied for two weeks by local people to prevent its demolition by property developer Dr Roger Wratten and conversion into luxury flats.

The occupation has received widespread press coverage, overwhelming local support and looks set to continue for some time. Hundreds of people have visited the café in the past 14 days bringing food, furniture and donations, over 60 people are on the shift rota and local residents associations have passed resolutions in favour of the occupation with offers of practical support. The Guardian, Evening Standard and others have carried features with a steady stream of journalists and film crews in the past few days.

Courtroom Drama
The court hearing on Friday 9th December led to a possession order being granted to Dr Wratten. However, instead of the usual 10-20 minute hearing, it took from mid-morning to 4pm for the judge to reach his decision, and the developers and their lawyers received searing criticism.

The court heard that Kirrie Wratten, wife of Dr. Wratten and a co-director of his company Market House Ltd, had entered the café posing as a supporter in order to spy on the occupiers; giving a donation and signing their petition. This was described by the judge as ‘foolish’.

One of Wratten’s many plans for Broadway Market was a 200 hundred seat theatre and in an interview with the Evening Standard Mrs Wratten said “I would have had a role in it as a guest director”. Since that particular application has been withdrawn her short appearance at Francesca’s is likely to be her first and last theatrical appearance on Broadway (Market).

Eviction
Wratten can now go to court again for an eviction warrant although this could take several weeks and an appeal may be launched before the 23rd December. Francesca’s has been successfully defended against eviction three times in the past, so even if it goes ahead this should not be taken as a sign of defeat. The police have re-opened criminal investigations into the original property sell-offs, and the council is reviewing the planning permission for Francesca’s, having admitted there are serious questions to be answered and referring it to Independent Planning Directorate for review.

Tony, Spirit and the Bahamas
Tony Platia, who has run Francesca’s for 30 years, isn’t the only person in Broadway Market facing this treatment. Spirit, from the Nutritious Food Gallery, 74 Broadway Market, handed a cheque for a deposit on his shop to estate agents Nelson Bakewell on the day it was being auctioned off by Hackney Council, and at the end of the day discovered it had been sold to Bahamas based “Broadway Investments Hackney” for £15000 less than he’d offered. Little Georgia, part of the first wave of gentrification on the street, was recently priced out by Wratten and replaced one week later by a French bistro.

Gentrification
Broadway Market, and Hackney in general, is at the sharp end of gentrification in London. It is likely to have six City Academies within the next couple of years, out of a total of only two hundred across the UK. Nearby Laburnum primary school was closed recently and will be replaced by a City Academy in 2006, to be sponsored and run by Swiss investment bank UBS. UBS also sponsors Hidden Art Hackney, which happens to have a significant presence in Broadway Market and has contributed to its redevelopment in terms of providing studio and retail space to ‘designer makers’ and developing the Saturday ‘Farmers STYLE Market’.

As Londoners prepare for a heavy council tax bill to pay for the Olympics, which will be focused above all on Hackney, Haggerston Pool, five minutes walk from Francesca’s, and Clissold Leisure centre in Stoke Newington remain closed. East Marsh, part of historic Hackney Marshes and a major centre for Sunday football will be turned into a carpark for 2012. It’s unlikely that the olympics will provide significant improvements for people living in Hackney and the other affected boroughs, but developers and the construction industry stand to make a killing.

Video interview and photos
libcom visited Francesca’s this afternoon and conducted a short video interview with Carl Taylor from Hackney Independent, and local advocate and spokesperson for the occupation Arthur Shuter. We present the interview in quicktime format (30mb, 3 mins) and some photosfrom the café.

Implications
The corruption and sell offs on Broadway Market and the rapid gentrification of inner cities around the UK is one of the most visible signs of the continuing decomposition of the working class under New Labour. Along with the mass sell-offs of council housing, highest ever levels of consumer debt, casualisation at work, the pensions crisis and many more symptoms of recent capitalist development, this constitutes a sustained and continuing attack on our living and working conditions which may lead to many more stories like Francesca’s.

The occupation on Broadway Market provides a glimpse of the potential for resistance against the encroachment of capital and commodity society on our public space and free time. Although a handful of experienced political activists are involved, the overwhelming majority of people drinking tea each day in Francesca’s “haven’t done anything like this before” (letter to Hackney Gazette, Thursday 9th December).

Although highly localised and borne out of the daily experience of life for people in and around Broadway Market, the occupation has been extremely visible in both local and national media and mobilised the support of hundreds of people in the area. Although the fate of Tony Platia’s café is far from decided, the relationships and experiences that are developing through this occupation should lead to a political climate in Hackney which can continue to resist the process of gentrification and social exclusion which is likely to accelerate as 2012 approaches.

As struggles like this circulate around the country and internationally, it points towards the potential for a society where people have taken control of their lives collectively, with human need being at the basis of organisation rather than ‘market forces’.

This article was taken from www.libcom.org/news

For more information about the events on Broadway Market, and some other organisations and campaigns active in Hackney there are links, pictures and a video interview all linked from the libcom news story here:

http://libcom.org/news/article.php?story=broadway-market-occupation-11-12-05

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Olympic Compulsory Purchases

Like the other Olympic games and as with the Arsenal Stadium business ( where they want luxury flats and a mega casino ) and people are getting the boot by politicians and their mates in big business. We all know that much money has been wasted on consultants and propaganda lying about how this will benefit us all ( just as with ALMOs and any other PPP/PFI project -).

Well evictions, compuslory purchases, fares increases, council tax increases, more dodgy property speculation, pollution from the flights to the Olympics, plus devastation of wildlfie habitatas and pollution from the development ( the construction industry is responsible for 50% of emissions causing global warming ). We could also compare this with the corrupt shennanigans in Snowdonia National Park last year where Low Impact Sustainable Housing was destroyed ( search Indymedia for articles on Tony Wrench’s Roundhouse )yet many holiday homes for a corporate company were approved. But this is planning and development all over. Corrupt ( whether that is legal or moral you can decide ).The following BBC report does not mention that tennats have been told that they will have ONLY ONE choice of relocation so if the housing is unfit than they and the communities they are currently with are doublely shafted.
The BBC article:- Olympic land’s compulsory orders

An order securing land needed for the 2012 Olympic Games has been issued by the London Development Agency (LDA).

The compulsory purchase order (CPO) was issued for a 345 hectare site in east London, which has some private housing and more than 270 businesses.

But many of the companies in the Marshgate Lane area of Stratford say they are being forced out.

The LDA, the mayor’s business arm, says it is still prepared to negotiate individual voluntary agreements.

Manny Lewis, chief executive of the LDA, said: “This CPO is a necessary and important step towards the transformation of the Lower Lea Valley and the delivery of the Olympic Park.

Communities ‘boosted’

“The regeneration of this area will give local communities the boost they deserve.

“A legacy of 9,000 new homes, double the number of jobs in the Olympic zone area alone, business opportunities, social facilities, including schools, more green space and, of course, fantastic new sports venues.

 

What’s the point in regenerating it [the area], when you are going to destroy 300 good businesses and 10,000 jobs
Marshgate Lane businessman Lance Forman

“The issuing of the CPO does not mean the end of negotiations and, indeed, we would much prefer voluntary agreements with businesses and other land owners.”

The majority of those affected will be relocated by the summer of 2007.

One of those affected is Lance Forman who runs a family-owned salmon smoking operation.

He said: “Businesses like our ours are not after compensation. What we want is a site we can operate from that is as good as the one we’ve got.

“One that give us the same access to the City and West End, so that we can run our businesses successfully like we have done for 100 years.

“What’s the point in regenerating it [the area], when you are going to destroy 300 good businesses and 10,000 jobs.”

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Olympic Demolition Starts

With news that London is now odds on favourite to win the 2012 Olympic bid work has already started on the site.

The site near Homerton Road and Stratford High Road has seen builders arive Monday morning and starting to demolish buildings. When Su Crawford spoke to them and asked them what they were doing she was told, “It’s for the Olympics, this is going to be the site”

She is trying to organise a demonstration later today ( Monday 6th June ) and will be trying to stop or slow progress on the construction.

There are expected to be ongoing demonstrations and local resistance to the building, what some have seen as part of the ” new fascism”. Privatisation, local and national government corruption are filling the pockets of property developers in the guise of community regeneration ( see Liverpool’s Pathway for instance ). Londoners may have noticed their fares spiralling out of control as ordinary folk fund the business communities schemes.

For the past 20 years ‘urban regeneration’ has been an excuse for corporate chains to turn every high street into an identical area whilst getting public funding (regeneration grants ) and ousting small businessess and the poor.

In a very good article on the No 2 Olympics website Kevin Blowe exposes the main myths surrounding the Olympic bid including the notion that the Games will help the regeneration of east London.

Read his article on the No To Olympics 2012 website here.

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