Chatsworth Road grapples with plans for growth

Halil Mehmet, Mighty Meat Butcher. Photo: Laura McCluskey

Halil Mehmet, Mighty Meat Butcher. “30 years I have been here in Chatsworth Road, my shop has been here the longest. The market would be the best opportunity for this road.” Photo: Laura McCluskey

What’s your idea of the perfect high street? A place where you can do your weekly shop, somewhere with big brands that you can trust, or niche businesses offering unique services?

These are just some of the questions that people who live in and around Chatsworth Road, E5, have been asked as part of a neighbourhood plan that aims to manage the rapid changes currently happening in the area.

In the last 24 months, one quarter of the shops along the high street have changed hands, local urban designer Euan Mills said at the launch of the Chatsworth Road Neighbourhood Plan at a Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association (CTRA) meeting at Chats Palace on 19 January.

He said, “By taking a proactive approach to establishing a vision for the area while gentrification is still in its infancy, we’ll be able to steer this change and ensure that the community have their say before development pressure becomes overwhelming.

“While the area still boasts a diverse range of shops – from a luxury delicatessen and a creperie to a pound shop and massage parlour – many residents are concerned that this won’t last.”

Local resident Sally Aldous of Dunlace Road described the need for a plan: “I decided to move to Clapton because I love the feel of the area. Chatsworth Road feels like a real high street, somewhere you can do your weekly shop, get a coffee, go to the dentist or even organise a funeral.

“It’s the sort of place politicians aspire to have in every neighbourhood, and whilst some change is good, I worry that at if it continues we’ll lose the diversity that makes it so special.”

The neighbourhood plan project sets out to gather the views of local residents and businesses to create a document that outlines clear aspirations for how the area should change in the future.

The Chatsworth Road Neighbourhood Plan will cover Chatsworth Road and its surrounding area, from Lea Bridge Road and Millfields Park to the north to Homerton High Street to the south, and spanning Lower Clapton Road to the west to Hackney Marshes to the east. The area covers approximately 160 hectares and boasts a hospital, primary school, and a number of parks. It is home to about 20,000 people.

Residents and traders alike welcomed the re-introduction of Chatsworth Road Market at the end of 2010, but it provoked much debate locally as people drew parallels with the changes that have happened to the Broadway Market area since the market was re-established in 2004.

It is exactly these types of concerns that the Neighbourhood Plan will be addressing, Mills said.

“How can the gentrification of the neighbourhood be managed, so that the area benefits from the positive aspects without alienating its incumbent population?

“Really, we’re asking people to think about what is important to the area. Could we come up with five to ten guiding principles that we all agree on? For example, are local and independent shops important? If so, then we can develop projects to support them. Perhaps we could start a loyalty card scheme so that for every £5 you spend on Chatsworth Road you get a stamp, once you’ve got 10 stamps you can get £5 off your next purchase.”

The timing for the plan is critical. Residents have been campaigning for Hackney Council to create an Area Action Plan for Clapton for a few years, but with the recent budget cuts this is now looking unlikely.

However, the Localism Bill, unveiled at the end of last year, has raised some hopes because it aims to put planning powers into the hands of the people and offer communities the chance to create their own planning policy.

Over the next few weeks residents and businesses are being asked to think about the long term future of the area, and to identify a number of guiding principles that would help to make their vision a reality.

The CRTRA are looking for people’s opinions on what is important to them in order to help guide changes to the area in the future. You can fill out a survey on or email

Follow progress on Twitter @chatsworthroad.