A long-time resident of Brick Lane has slammed plans for a shopping centre in the area.
Dr Fatima Rajina – part of one of the many campaign groups that have been fighting to ‘save Brick Lane’ from gentrification – said that the Bengali community would not ‘go down without a fight’.
She said that new plans for a shopping mall were “disastrous” for the East End and that her campaign group, Nijjormanush, will continue to fight to ensure they do not go ahead.
READ MORE: Outrage as ‘shopping mall full of high street names’ can be built on London’s legendary Brick Lane
Despite more than 7,000 objections by residents and visitors alike, the plans were approved last week by Tower Hamlets Council.
The plans involve a controversial shopping centre, which will see the old Truman Brewery buildings redeveloped into office space and High street chains.
The legendary ‘curry mile’ is currently home to hundreds of family-owned curry houses and cafés, and has become known as ‘Banglatown’ locally and across the city due to its Bangladeshi routes.
The campaign group by Dr Rajina, whose family moved to Brick Lane in the 1960s, organised its third protest on September 13 with the theme of a funeral procession in a bid to highlight how the plans would mean the “death” of Brick Lane as it stands.
(Image: Sarah Ainslie)
Dr Rajina said: “These plans put profit before people and show no interest in the local people of Brick Lane.
“For months, we have been door-knocking, leafleting and engaging with residents here and there is strong opposition to these plans.
“Not once did a Bangladeshi family say they didn’t want change.
“They recognise change is the constant but they want this change to benefit them and their lives since they live in the area.
“This development will not benefit the community which we clearly outlined in our community-led masterplan outline.
“We showcased how this would displace local working-class communities.”
The campaign group visited more than 150 organisations and small businesses over months of campaigning on Brick Lane and nearby Cheshire Street and Montague Street.
She said many residents felt let down by Tower Hamlets Council.
Dr Rajina said: “Tower Hamlets has the largest Bangladeshi population in the world outside of Bangladesh. Many of these people had to fight for their rights and fight just to be allowed to live here. It’s of huge cultural significance.”
(Image: Sarah Ainslie)
She added that the vote was very close and could have gone the other way.
Dr Rajina said: “Cllr Leema Qureshi was unable to vote. She was self-isolating at the time of the meeting.
“She said that she would have voted against the plans which would have turned the vote into a tie.”
The Brick Lane resident said the fight against the development was far from over.
“Our group and others like it will not go down without a fight and we will continue to oppose these plans which there is very little support for,” she said.
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“Brick Lane is famous around the world in Bangladeshi communities.
“People from Bangladesh to New York know it for its cultural significance.
“The first Bengali people arrived in the East End of London from as early the seventeenth century.
“Every Bengali family has some sort of link to East London.”
She continued: “But it’s also about the socio-economic impact.
“It shows that there is no interest in the local people. It is one of the most deprived areas of the city.
“These people will likely never be able to afford the business rates at this new mall. These plans are putting profit before people.”
A Tower Hamlets Council spokesperson said: “The Development Committee has agreed with the officer assessment that the proposals comply with our local planning rules.
“Permission is subject to ensuring the scheme creates public benefits, including updated proposals for affordable workspace and independent retail.”
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