Gazette letters: Hackney Walk, tower blocks and benefits

Boarded up commercial units at Hackney Walk. Picture: EMMA BARTHOLOMEW

Boarded up commercial units at Hackney Walk. Picture: EMMA BARTHOLOMEW - Credit: Emma Bartholomew

On November 1, 2012 the Gazette reported the proposed closure of the workshops under the railway arches along Morning Lane to make way for fashion shops, writes Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.

Next week you published lots of constructively critical letters and one from me saying "..the casual disregard for the existing locals that Hackney Council has shown causes more problems than it solves.

"It replaces retail infrastructure and social facilities for residents with one for visitors. It raises costs for locals without providing them with any compensatory income to match."

I went on to bemoan the disappearance of The Wellington pub and Christopher Mautsi's motor repair shop and to predict that those made redundant wouldn't get jobs pushing pastel Pringle pullovers."

I ended: "Destination retailing is OK when plonked down in greenfield sites like Bluewater or Lakeside. It requires a far better appreciation of local people's needs than Hackney Council has shown so far when it forces out existing services."

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I know saying: "I told you so" won't make me any friends. But we all knew it was neither well founded nor would it be solidly supported once it started.

We all knew the council was blinded by bling and glamour and had forgotten the unfashionable virtues of looking after local citizens.

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The great thing about a council that never learns its lessons and repeats the same mistakes is that you don't have to think up new letters!

As neighbours of Hackney Walk, we echo the disappointment voiced by Meg Hillier MP in last week's Gazettte about the failure of the scheme, write Churchill Residents' Group.

The jobs and training that were promised have not materialised and it is clear that it has not delivered on the promises made by the council to Hackney residents in advance of the development.

With the failure of high end retail in this location, there are many other creative uses for the space that could be encouraged. Conversion of the arches for use as start-up spaces would provide opportunities for new businesses leading to sustainable employment. There is no shortage of restaurants and cafes in the area and the original planning permission specifically excluded that type of use. Converting these units from retail use to small business use would also be far less wasteful in terms of environmental and emissions impact than the wholescale remodelling that would be required for a switch to cafes and restaurants.

We can certainly imagine Hackney Walk transformed to be full of small businesses run by local people, employing local people and serving people in the community.

Works have been going on for several months now to prepare to build a new school and a replacement leisure centre as part of the council's Britannia development plan, writes Pat Turnbull, Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaign.

They are causing stress problems for people living nearby such as constant noise including at weekends. This is only going to get worse when the building actually starts with disruption to traffic, with lorries going in and out of the site daily and pavements closed.

If the Britannia project goes to its next phase there is the prospect of at least six more years of this, including the construction of towers 25, 20, 16 and 10 storeys high. Local people know what that means from their experience of the construction of the neighbouring Hoxton Press towers, 20 and 16 storeys high.

The next phase is a 16 storey tower on Shoreditch Park Primary School playground, in the eyeline of the already suffering Bridport House residents, adding to the two Hoxton Press towers already there. The council has other options - for example, they recently received £40 million for housing from the Mayor of London, some of which could go to converting 48 of the market/shared ownership properties projected for the Colville Estate regeneration to social rent.

This would help avoid building 48 in that tower; putting families in tower blocks is nowadays usually avoided when there is another option.

The council also now has the choice of borrowing to build social rented housing, which it did not have when this project was conceived, 32 shared ownership properties are also planned for that tower. These are unaffordable to most people in Hackney.

According to official figures 140,000 people over 65 are entitled to Attendance Allowance but are not receiving payment, writes June Bennett, Benefit Answers.

You could be one of those 140,000!

Attendance Allowance is not means-tested and is to help with disability-related daily living costs.

Benefitanswers are offering a FREE check to see if you could qualify for this Allowance.

- If you are OVER 65 and would like further information, please ring 0330 223 4773 or email

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