Plans by London’s Olympic legacy organisation to build up to 1,500 new homes in the onetime wasteland of Wick have been met with concerns from locals, who fear a speedy regeneration process will lead to the displacement of the area’s artists.
The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) met with Hackney Council planners last month to thrash out ideas for a massive series of developments, which are set to be completed by 2023 with the first residents moving in to new complexes of homes from 2016.
The LLDC is extending the Hackney Wick Conservation Area beyond its current boundaries to protect some heritage buildings in East Wick.
In a move that could upset developers and landowners, the local planning authority asked interested parties whether conservation status should be granted to the land and old factory buildings around Wallis Road and the Lee Navigation Canal.
The consultation, which closes today, was extended by four weeks after the LLDC received a deluge of responses from those in favour and opposed to the changes.
An online petition in support of the plans garnered more than a thousand signatures.
Jo Hughes, founder of Mother Studios, an artist-run exhibition space in the Hackney Wick area, said: “We welcome the conservation plans, but without additional support to protect tenants from open-market rents, the creatives who have worked hard to develop the community are going to be forced out. We are victims of our own success.”
From the 1990s onwards many artists have eschewed rising house prices in neighbouring areas in favour of the low rents and widespread availability of space in Wick.
Once a derelict industrial zone, the area began showing signs of revival and a 2008 study showed it was home to over 600 creative workspaces.
In 2012 the Olympics brought an influx of investment and economic activity to the area, but there has been a corresponding rise in property values.
Richard Brown, founder of campaigning group AffordableWick, which promotes a ‘grass-roots’ regeneration strategy, said: “The LLDC are sensitive to the cultural value of Hackney Wick. Their proposal on the conservation area proves this. But they need to ensure they continue and develop what’s already happening, rather than presume there is another ‘ideal’ that can be overlaid onto that. The intent is perfect, it is the application that they need to get right.”
Debby Blow from Keatons Estate Agents said: “We have seen a massive increase in house prices across the board – a three bedroom house in Hackney Wick achieving £440,000 at sealed bids today would have achieved £330,000 to £350,000 a year ago.
“There are always winners and losers though. Things sped up so quickly because of improvements to roads, transport links and amenities. The primary schools have gone from fair to excelling. This is now blatantly an area for young families.”