Hackney Wick councillor blames artist exodus on “tsunami of rising rent prices”

Nick Sharman has claimed that the council has “very limited powers when facing the tsunami of rising property values across the borough”.

The Labour Hackney Wick councillor who began his tenure in May 2014, also rejected allegations of neglect towards artists working in the area.

He was responding to comments made by Richard Brown, the founder of campaign group AffordableWick, who said local authorities “don’t really give a s*** about sustaining a creative culture in the area.”

-the interview with Richard Brown, AffordableWick

Mr Sharman said “I’d like to know what his evidence is for making that generalised and unjustified comment.”

“Clearly, we face a lot of pressure from a mix of developers, some who are interested in workspace at a reasonable rate, others for whom they only have got one thing in mind and that’s maximising their profits in the shortest possible time.”

“Our hands are tied in a lot of ways, if you don’t own the land, you can’t set the rent. Where we can exert direct influence we do, and I suppose in a broader way we are trying to ensure that the community is able to develop itself.”

“It’s not totally out of the council’s control, but the council has very limited powers when facing the tsunami of rising property values across the borough.

“What they’re experiencing in Hackney Wick you’re seeing in the housing market too, people being pushed out by rent. Hackney Council is not in a position to stop in it’s tracks the incredible wave of rising rents, both industrial and household rents.

“What we can do is to try to ameliorate some of the worst aspects of it, whether it’s housing or industry and try to create some sort of safe areas of development, something that can act as a catalyst for development.”

The Councillor was responding to comments made by  a campaign that promotes affordable workspace for artists in the Hackney Wick area.

Richard Brown said “I think there are a few things about this place which characterise it as what it is in terms of its cultural value and one is ‘The Blind Eye’, the fact that local authorities and landowners don’t really give a s*** about us.

“They just leave you to it, the fact that people live here illegally – their reaction is “I’m just not looking”, you know? But they’re kind of happy about it because it creates a value, it’s the same with landowners.”

Mr. Brown added “At the moment the best support mechanism in reality is these really dodgy landlords, who aren’t in a hurry to develop their buildings. It’s actually the landlords who are turning a blind eye who are just opening up property for artists, even though it’s illegal, so in a really backhanded way they’re really providing a really important space.”

Councillor Sharman also suggested that the divide between the community was emblematic, between festivals “run by the local, longstanding people” and the Hackney WickED festival.

“There is an overlap between them and one of the things we’re anxious to do is to make sure they really work in a complimentary way each, not in two worlds.”

Mr Sharman also added “We’re anxious to make sure that young people have the skills and interest in those more dynamic creative industries, on the one hand, and on the other that those industries will open their doors to them and won’t just ignore the talent on their own doorstep.”

About AffordableWick

AffordableWick campaigns for affordable workspace in the Hackney Wick area and have posted reports on the availability and character of the current workspaces and studios on their website.

The campaign also launches projects to help provide workspace to the local artistic community. Projects such as these include a roaming workspace that was built in 2012 from scrap materials, available for local artists to rent.

Mr Brown said of the workspace, “I thought: “OK. Well I’ll just build a workspace. I’ll use the local skills and networks that are here.”

“In the end it cost me something like £100 to build and that’s why it’s so fun. It didn’t cost much to build, it doesn’t have a land value, it doesn’t live anywhere. It’s a bit nomadic, a bit like the residents here, they’re a bit nomadic.

“It was just kind of creating a vision, saying “Look, there’s an alternative way of working here, we don’t have to go through this long process of planning and development to produce buildings that people are being turned off by anyway.”


Author: Louis Doré

Freelance Journalist studying at City University, London on MA Newspaper Journalism.

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