Council remains tight-lipped over subsidised Hackney Heart pop-up shop

The protest outside Hackney Heart, photo Dieter Perry

The protest outside Hackney Heart, photo Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Hackney Council is remaining tight lipped over the pop-up café and gallery it is subsidising to run rent and rate-free in a prime business spot.

The protest outside Hackney Heart, photo Dieter Perry

The protest outside Hackney Heart, photo Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

Last week the Gazette reported that struggling traders are angry with the council for sub-letting Hackney Heart in Narrow Way to Jane MacIntyre, who also runs Hackney Homemade Market in the same road.

The council insists it is a not-for-for profit initiative, part of its regeneration plans for the recently-pedestrianised shopping area, and that Ms MacIntyre is running the shop as a volunteer without taking any form of wage.

But despite assurances from the council and Ms MacIntyre that the accounts for the project would be made public this week, both parties later decided to keep the figures under wraps.

A number of questions put to the council by the Gazette relating to the scheme also went unanswered.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by London Assembly member Andrew Boff showed the cost of the lease on the building to be £16,000 over six months.

The lease is currently set to last a year, with a two week break clause if a paying retailer wants the space.

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The town hall did, however, reveal this week that the rent for Hackney Heart had been paid for out of a £100,000 grant from the government for riot-hit high streets, and that the unit had been empty for a year before the council took it over to “attract new shoppers” to the area.

A handful of protesters staged a protest outside the shop on Saturday, including Emmanuel Amevor, former director of charity Centerprise which was ousted from Kingsland Road, Dalston, in 2012 after its peppercorn rent was upped to the £37,000 market rate.

He said: “While we welcome any initiative to increase community spaces to support artists, the council should do this in a transparent and objective manner.”

Ms MacIntyre said she had been willing to chat with the protesters, but none of them would enter the shop.

“Someone said there would be a class war, they were shouting out “yuppy scum”, but refused to have any kind of dialogue,” she said.

Ms MacIntyre said Hackney Heart is a community led space which is much more than just a shop.

She said: “Visitors are encouraged to come in, with no obligation to buy, but to look at the gallery space, have a chat, borrow a book or enjoy one of the free events.

“Hackney is my favourite place in the world and I have worked on many projects over the last few years.”

A council spokesman said the project has employed a part-time shop assistant since November on minimum wage.