‘People don’t feel at home anymore’: The Hackney group fighting back against gentrification

Hackney residents are fighting back against “gentrification” in the area after developers proposed replacing a Tesco superstore with offices and housing.

Hackney Walk Ltd has expressed an interest in building offices, housing, and shops, as well as a smaller Tesco on the site owned by the council.

Residents have complained that, among other issues, the plans would have some affordable housing, but no council housing, and a previous development by the same developers has been perceived to be a failure by residents.

Read more: Londoners celebrating Ridley Road in the face of gentrification

Hackney Walk is a stretch of designer shops and luxury establishments developed in 2017, nestled on Morning Lane, Hackney.

It was built with the expectations it would attract visitors, create jobs and help the area.

Four years later, Hackney Walk as it was named, is a row of empty shops, with no jobs or local economic growth in sight.

Row of empty shops on Hackney Walk

Despite this, the developers have been tasked with developing the site that currently houses a Tesco a few yards away.

Their proposed developments of the site would include a 19-storey building with no council housing but 20% affordable housing, retail, and office units.

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People don’t feel ‘at home’ in Hackney anymore

The Morning Lane Peoples Space (MLPS) have been fighting back against the plans produced by the developers of Hackney Walk.

The group, which describes itself as a voice for the people of Hackney, said it did not want to see its local supermarket turned into an establishment for the rich, ignoring the people who live here.

The Tesco site they plan to develop

The Tesco site they want to develop

The Hackney campaigners are fighting against these plans.

The team called on the developers, in a petition against the plans, to ensure that “any development is based on broad and deep consultation with local people so that the development creates shopping, services, employment opportunities and housing that are useful for them”.

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An area that has seen a rise in gentrification, Hackney has seen a significant amount of development over the years, but many long-time residents have found the changes do not benefit them, and instead risk pricing them out of the area.

Many argue that they do not want to see unaffordable offices and housing built on sites that have provided for so many families over the years.

Ultimately, they want any development to actually benefit the people from the area.

Campaigners want 50% of homes built to be 'council housing'

Campaigners want 50% of homes built to be ‘council housing’

Heather, the group’s secretary, spoke to MyLondon and explained why she was so passionately against the plans.

She spoke to Hackney residents, and said that people wanted “housing, and not the idea of ‘affordable housing’ that isn’t actually affordable”.

Heather added: “There has to be at least 50% council housing for actually people living in Hackney.”

She continued: “The idea to replace a big superstore with a smaller sized Tesco isn’t viable for the area.

“With changes to Ridley Road Market and Kingsland Shopping Centre, this is the biggest and most affordable shopping for many in the area. Places to shop are limited and Tesco is really important for the people.”

Local residents taking part in the survey

Local residents taking part in the survey

The petition currently has more than 2,000 signatures.

Residents plan to march down to Hackney Town Hall with their own ‘people’s plan’.

This plan would take into account the needs of actual residents, the need for council housing, community spaces and would show that the “council cares about its residents”.

Pat Quigley, another campaigner who has lived in the area for more than 40 years, said that the proposed development is not something she sees benefiting the locals.

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“I have been part of the group for nearly a year,” she said.

“When we’ve gone out to leaflet and ask questions, you hear a lot of the same things, which is surprising but also shows how everyone understands the issues with Hackney.

“There have been a number of changes in the area but people are feeling under threat.”

There is a general feeling of not feeling welcomed and it is something that campaign group MLPS wants the council to understand.

“People feel like the area is changing rapidly around them,” she said.

“There seems to be an unnerving feeling among people, they don’t feel at home.”

Empty development apart of Hackney Walk

An empty development apart of Hackney Walk

Marching down to Hackney Town Hall on October 20 will be a way for the people to have their voices heard.

Pat continued: “People are clear. They want to be in a place where they feel included.

“Hackney is a working-class area and we want the council to take that into account and engage with us when it comes to any new developments.

“Tesco is a shop for everyone and is affordable. Everybody thinks the same on the whole, it’s not often you get a topic where everyone agrees.

“Any new development should engage with the people most affected, the people living in Hackney.”

Council will explore alternative ideas

Hackney council has said it is will explore “alternative ideas” to support residents through the redevelopment of the Tesco store on Morning Lane as an agreement with an existing developer nears an end.

The council, which has owned the site since 2017, signed an agreement with developments Hackney Walk Ltd to develop the land.

That agreement expires in March next year and Hackney Walk Ltd has not yet submitted a planning application.

As a result, the council is exploring other options in case a plan is not submitted.

Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville said: “When we intervened to buy this land four years ago, we were really clear about why – to stop untrammelled development in the middle of the civic and economic heart of Hackney.

“Our agreement with Hackney Walk is designed to deliver exactly the kind of things that local people have told us they want to see and what our town centre needs – more shops, more affordable workspace, places for businesses to grow, affordable homes and better public spaces, as well as long-term income for the council to fund vital public services.

“As that agreement nears its end, it’s common sense that we, as a council, explore what alternatives there are to develop this site in the interests of our residents in case it doesn’t come off.

“That work starts now, and any new ideas will be worked up in close partnership with local people and businesses.”

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