Small Hackney traders are being “driven out”
- Credit: Archant
Hackney Council planners granted provisional permission for the Westgate Centre in Bocking Street to be demolished to make way for 32 flats – leaving the businesses, which employ a total of 35 people, until the end of March to vacate.
More than 2,000 people signed a petition against the development, which has forced all but one of the businesses to leave the borough altogether due to rocketing rents and rates.
Many now fear that the loss of the independent businesses could signal the demise of London Fields as the vibrant place it has become so well known for.
Maria Goodman, 32, owner of boutique bakery Molly Bakes, which supplies Harvey Nichols, is the only business that has managed to find an alternative unit in Hackney – but says it has come at a huge price.
She said: “It’s been difficult. I’m relived I’ve found somewhere but my costs are going to increase significantly.
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“I will now pay double the rent and have to pay £4,000 up-front for my deposit and rent. I will also have to pay £1,000 to relocate and kit out the new premises.”
Mike Meehan, 42, of Stoke Newington, owner of pie makers The Pie Cart, is relocating to Stratford as he struggled find anywhere suitable in Hackney. He said: “I think it’s inevitable that places like this are getting knocked down as land values here go up.
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“I had problems finding somewhere in Hackney even though I’m employing local people and most of our market is in Hackney. It’s only big businesses that can afford to pay rents here.”
Notting Hill Housing Trust (NHHT) was granted planning permission on the basis of providing 10 business units in the new development. But, according to London Assembly member and London Fields resident Andrew Boff, only five such units were let out of a total of 22 developed in Mare Street, Triangle Road, Crystal Court, Northside Studios and Ash Grove.
A further four had only been let after a change in use, he added.
Local resident Mr Boff said: “This shows that Hackney does not welcome small businesses. After lying empty for a while, developers apply for a change in use and these units become retail units attracting the likes of Sainsbury’s in Mare Street.”
An NHHT spokesman said: “Current tenants at the property have temporary leases and were aware that the property was due for redevelopment.”
A council spokesman insisted that the proposal provides an increase in the amount of employment floor space at the site.