Wick residents split over plans

Artist's impression: Hackney Wick, looking east along Wallis Road (at the junction of Berkshire Road and Felstead Street)

Whilst some local residents remain sceptical of the council’s newly-unveiled plans for Hackney Wick,  it is clear that the area will change dramatically with Olympic-led redevelopment. Hackney Council has adopted a masterplan for Hackney Wick which it says will help guide future development while seeking to protect the unique character and architecture of the area.

The masterplan, which was adopted following a public consultation, proposes improvements to the Hackney Wick London Overground station; a ‘hub’ around the station that could include restaurants, cafes and shops; better walking and cycling connections; and two new bridges to provide direct access to the Olympic Park.

The council says the masterplan recognises the special contribution of the creative and cultural industries in the area and supports their development and retention in Hackney Wick, while setting out development opportunities for further local employment and enterprise.

Hackney Wick nestles up against the Olympic Park, with half of the neighbourhood inside the park itself.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said “Hackney Wick has a unique character which is captured in this plan and it will ensure that as investment flows into the neighbourhood the development that follows recognises and enhances that character.  It will also play a vital role in shaping and connecting a new neighbourhood for the Wick that will come forward in the years ahead within the Olympic and Paralympic Park itself.”

Yet residents and business owners are divided over the plans. Some are concerned that proposals would threaten the local community.

Emiullah, owner of the Jar café on Felstead Street, admits “the Olympic Games will be good for business”, though he also notes that the area is already fairly congested, as he often has trouble finding a parking space when he arrives at work in the mornings.

Joanna Hughes, the owner of artistic hive Mother Studios, she said, “I don’t know much about the Hackney Council proposal, but I do hope that they are [concerned] about artists’ contribution to Hackney. Most artists live in poverty for most of their life and as this development gets going we could see a rise in rent … art studios are different from local businesses – art is about value to people like me.”

One local resident (who preferred to remain unnamed) believes that the money could be better spent elsewhere, “I have a daughter who has tree teenagers living in a one-bedroom house, there isn’t any space.  She has been trying to move for some time – the council told her to turn the living room into a bedroom. The streets are fine the way they are, better housing is what the council needs to sort out and as for the Olympic Games, I can’t afford those tickets – I’m a pensioner”.

The masterplan was prepared by Hackney Council with the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation and Design for London, and it sits alongside the Hackney Wick Conservation Area Appraisal. Together the two documents set out planning guidance for any proposed development.