Row breaks out over Hackney Walk luxury fashion hub’s plan to sell food

The new designer fashion hub in Hackney

The new designer fashion hub in Hackney - Credit: Archant

Developers of a luxury fashion hub have been accused of going back on a promise not to serve food so local traders would have a chance to benefit from the area’s regeneration.

It was originally planned that Hackney Walk would not sell food – but organisers now say the project, set to open in disused railway arches in May, will host pop-up stalls until the area around the Narrow Way “catches up”.

Fourteen fashion brands have signed up to open new stores at Hackney Walk, which is being built in 12 reclaimed arches in Hackney Central.

The concept was conceived by Hackney Council in 2011 following the London riots, when the Mayor’s Regeneration Fund invested £2m into Hackney as part of a plan to regenerate the worst affected parts of the capital.

While Hackney Council spent £500,000 revamping shop fronts in Hackney Central and the Narrow Way, £1.5m was poured into the fashion hub project, along with £3.3m funding from Network Rail which owns the arches.

Andrew Sissons, former head of regeneration at the council, now works for Hackney Walk which was given the right to run the project.

Mr Sissons came to the Hackney Central ward forum at Pembury Community Hall, Lower Clapton, last week to discuss the project. He was asked about plans to provide food at pop-up stalls.

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One attendee, Debbie, told him: “When I came to the ward forum meeting a long time ago there was talk that there wasn’t going to be food because then that would draw people back into Hackney Central.

“But if you are now going to start putting in restaurants it’s going to take people literally off the train, straight into this Hackney Walk development, and they won’t spend their money elsewhere.

“That worries me because that will have a knock-on effect on their takings.”

Cllr Vincent Stops, chair of the meeting, added: “That’s my recollection as well, Andrew.”

Mr Sissons replied: “I agree, but I would say for the moment on the Narrow Way, nothing is changing much. There is a new cocktail bar that’s opened nearby, and we talk about that on our website. We would love to see more of that.

“What we are doing is creating pop-up stuff for a couple of years so we can at least have that facility while the rest of the area catches up. We aren’t putting in any permanent food and beverage – it’s all temporary.”