The first round of evictions at a creative community on Vittoria Wharf are due, leading to demolition, on Sept 5th. The plan comes from the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLD Corp), which had a decade-old plan to build a footbridge through part of what was in those days just an empty, derelict building.
The site has since been rented by artists and workers who develop it into a centre for creative culture and business, succeeding in having it listed as one of London’s first Assets of Community Value….all the while paying millions of pounds in rent.
The site is an internationally renowned model for the furthering of art and culture and has been from delegations from far afield including the Mayor of Seoul, who wanted to learn how it was achieved. The community gives work experience to disabled children from a local school, free recording space and skills to local young musicians, has been in TimeOut London’s Top 5 exhibition spaces 5 times in 5 years, has classes, events, cultural broadcasts, gallery, café, and hosts up to 100 businesses, creating and collaborating across disciplines. Tenants are or have been oscar winners, bafta nominees, leading UK female pioneers of their fields, new artists with first big breaks, performance groups receiving momentum awards, and people who have worked to make the world better around them; working on issues of child trafficking, inventing new forms of art therapy, working with NHS Trusts, founding London’s first Mental Health gallery, and making initiatives to ensure local bars and nightspots pay their own cleanup costs, and not leave this to Tower Hamlets council.
LLD Corp has ignored all of this value so far. It is a body that submits planning applications to itself, often joint applications with private companies whose ultimate goal is profit, has powers usually attributable to local councils, yet without the voters or same external governance that councils answer to, used traffic studies on days with nearby closed roads as a basis for their planning condition, has ignored a highly respected industrial archaeoligist’s key 2014 report recommending conservation status to Vittoria Wharf, is looking at plans to build concrete factories near a new school, and is spending vast sums of money.
But here’s the thing, LLD Corp is actually a public body, so much of that resource spent is either funded by the taxpayer or Lotto cash that would otherwise have gone to charities.
The wider community has shown unanimous opposition in filmed public meetings this month.
But the tenants have a model they propose. The model aims to save what could be a huge amount of public resource committed to the unpopular footbridge – due to be situated close between two other already existing and much loved canal footbridges on a location which even LLDC’s own 2014 feasibility study admitted represents an ‘inefficient’ design due to space constraints and…
“fails to provide any meaningful public realm that would could take advantage of new pedestrian flows to help create a sense of vitality and vibrancy in the immediate area and does not stitch into the street network”.
The model instead appeals to LLDC to accept its hand in partnership, finding solutions together, and allow community insight to help it spend its money in the best outcome for the public interest. It maintains that instead of LLDC committing public resources for an outdated, unwanted, and weakened plan, the creative community has the partners, determination, financial foundations, track record, and imagination to continue to further develop the current community asset and centrepoint into a true cultural hub for the area, to create a non-profit organization that will dedicate would-be profits to local targets that would actually contribute to the goals of Tower Hamlets Council’s own local area action plans – benefiting the wider community, including the school and residential blocks LLDC are building themselves, on cultural, community, socio-economic, educational, business, and outreach levels.
With eviction clocks ticking, it was only late in the public 2nd meeting that LLDC staff admitted none of their people they had knowingly sent to either of the first 2 meetings were who tenants needed to speak to. They finally admitted the only person who could change it was Chairman, David Edmonds.
Tenants then appealed to the chairman by letter to meet and discuss the option that many in the area now believe is a better use of public resources than the decade-old plan, and the new best course regards the public interest.
In the most recent public meeting (see video below) with LLDC’s Head of Planning, Anthony Hollingsworth, they were told to expect that meeting ‘quite soon’. The meeting took pace on Aug 22 2016, 14 days before the date where tenants are being forced to leave, and there has not yet been a response from the chairman as of this morning, Fri 26th Aug, ‘ days on.
The question remains whether Chairman David Edmonds will truly step in to steer the ship in the direction of public support and seriously look at a model which challenges their previous model in line with best serving the public interest and how the public funds are used, or instead deny them outright the 3 months they have requested to discuss this as has been done so far…….or worse still, grant a dialogue extension that leads nowhere.
- Save Hackney Wick is a non-profit group aiming to unite the strengths of our neighbours and work with local authorities to reduce the impact of development on the creative community of Hackney Wick. For more information contact press@savehackneywick.
- The LLD Corp recently leased a multi-million pound stadium to West Ham united in a 99-year agreement which will see the club pay just £2.5m per year. Campaigners including the Big Lottery Refund campaign run by the Directory of Social Change have criticised the deal as a barrier to communities benefitting from the £425m owed to them which was raided from the Big Lottery Fund before the 2012 Olympics.
Key Video times:
10m25s – public request for 3 month extension to ascertain best pubic interest regards site
15m23s – major concerns with LLDC’s process regards the site
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
― R. Buckminster Fuller