Artists in a block of studios threatened with demolition have been handed an ultimatum by their landlord: support the planning application or leave, the Hackney Citizen can reveal.
More than 130 artists in Cremer Street Studios, off Hackney Road, were told by their studio provider to sign a letter stating they will not oppose development plans for the site.
Property developers Regal Homes have submitted a pre-planning application to demolish all existing buildings on the site to make way for a mixed-use development – including a 20-storey tower block.
The building’s studio providers the Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art (ACAVA) encouraged artists to sign a letter which stated: “I confirm my full support for the proposed redevelopment of the property.”
The letter stated that the artists would not object to any planning application for the development, and that they would “leave immediately [when the] extension expires and notice to vacate is served.”
In another email, seen by the Hackney Citizen, ACAVA explains that without the letters of support the owners of the building, D & J Simons & Sons Limited, will not extend the artists’ leases.
It reads: “ACAVA would be required by the Deed of Variation to have letters from everyone in the building agreeing not to object to the development.”
In exchange the artists will be allowed to stay until 30 November with an additional rolling extension of 30 days’ notice until the demolition takes place. Those who refuse will apparently need to vacate the property in two months.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Cremer Street Studios tenant said approximately half of the artists have signed the letter.
The artist told the Hackney Citizen: “Apparently some artists went to the planning meeting and made a bit of a fuss about the plans.
“That’s why they [the landlord] gave the notice so soon. They were concerned about us interfering with the plans for the development.
“It was pretty much a hostage situation. If you want to have any chance to stay then you have to sign this letter. And I think about half the artists signed it and half didn’t.”
“They [the developers] will essentially have 60 letters from the artists saying how fabulous they think the development is.”
Many of the artists have already begun to move out of the studios and there is doubt as to whether any of them will be able to stay in the area.
Artists under threat
Duncan Smith is Artistic Director of ACAVA which has provided 90 studios in the 1960s industrial building for the past 12 years.
He was not willing to comment on the letter but said: “The position for artists across London is reaching a critical point.
“While we don’t know how much longer we are going to be able to provide artists with studios at Cremer Street, we do know that it will eventually be redeveloped.
“Replacing it and the other rapidly disappearing artists’ studio buildings in Central London is increasingly difficult and the future of London as a global centre for the visual arts is threatened.”
Artist Brad Lochore, from conservation group OPEN Shoreditch, has expressed his concerns about the proposals for this site.
He said: “I feel sorry for the artists, they have been put in a really difficult position. The developer can now show the council the letters of approval, which will greatly increase their chances of success.”
Mandi Peers, who lives opposite the studios on Cremer Street, said: “I’m concerned about who is going to be next. You know, are they going to start moving people out of the council blocks?”
A Regal Homes spokesperson said it hoped the development would offer a “range of flexible commercial units, with some in the category of affordable rent”. When asked about the letter sent to current tenants they said they were “unaware of any such letter”.
D & J Simons & Sons Limited, has not responded to the Hackney Citizen’s requests for comment.