'Protect our businesses in world-renowned hub or we are doomed,' Brewery Road collective tells City of London Corporation
PUBLISHED: 08:15 11 July 2019 | UPDATED: 10:22 11 July 2019
A businessman asked to vacate his site so it can be redeveloped fears he won't be allowed back - and that this could spell the end for Islington's "globally renowned" hub of light industry.
A socially responsible collective of Brewery Road industrialists want assurances they won't be booted out in favour of a King's Cross-style take over by big firms.
Their sites are in "Islington's last significant strip of light industry", which is protected by the council. Now they want the same backing from their landlord, the City of London Corporation.
Halo Lighting - a hire company - has been asked to leave next month so landlord the City of London Corporation can redevelop the building in a two-year project.
Owner Yann Guenancia, who is moving to the Angel in the meantime, wants to know Halo will be able to return to its home of 12 years once it's complete - but has so far received no such commitment.
Halo is a founding member of the N7 Collective, a group of creative production companies highly-valued by Islington Council, which banded together three years ago in the face of rent reviews to agree to a set of common values, such as offering posts to young people from the area. Yann estimates the N7 Collective has created 300 "high-value, desirable jobs" in the community.
He told the Gazette: "There are many examples of landlords trying to redevelop buildings and putting pressure on the council to yield on light industry.
"This is the last significant street of light industry in Islington - that's why they have protected this cluster. The pressure is going to be enormous in years to come. We are already seeing it. The King's Cross redevelopment has brought a whole new set of businesses and now we are next on the menu.
"We are very precarious unless we become a protected species for the benefit of all."
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He claims businesses "essential to the functioning of London", are disappearing, forcing people to drive miles from the city centre to rent equipment like projectors for corporate functions.
Yann added: "As the major landowners in our area City have a huge influence. If our cluster of creative enterprises is to survive we need backing. If we are viewed purely on a business basis there will be nothing to differentiate us from any other prospective tenant and our cluster will not survive. City will view us with an element of social responsibility."
He argued Halo's proposal meets "raising market prices" for the premise, and thinks City should accept it to "maintain essential services, support companies creating employment, support social mobility and the training of young people into valuable jobs".
Yann added: "We feel our cluster is important. It needs to be championed and recognised for what it is and we need support to maintain and develop it."
The collective is made up of six companies: Big Sky Studios, Sensible Music, John Henry's, Backdrop Prop Hire, Halo and Matt Snowball Music.
"We talk to each other when we have rent reviews, share information about how industry is going, coordinate efforts with recruiting people, employ a lot of local people," said Yann. "We are responsible in a creative sense for what's around us, so if we can do small things like ask Islington Council for a list of young people looking for traineeship we're very happy to prioritise those."
The businessman was at pains to stress the Corporation has, so far, always been an "excellent landlord" and has been reasonable with its rent reviews.
But he added: "The big picture is I can see around me that a lot of businesses which, I would say, are essential to the functioning of London as a modern city are going to disappear."
Islington's business chief Cllr Asima Shaikh told the Gazette: "In Brewery Road we have a brilliant cluster of local creative production businesses and they've been there for years. It's globally renowned. Islington Council will continue to engage with City of London Corporation to ensure Halo can return."
A Corporation spokesperson said: "Our plans will ensure a thriving commercial hub for creative businesses. We are working closely with our tenants and listening carefully to their views. Our proposals take into account Islington's designated industrial protected area status, meaning the industrial space will be preserved. The process of finding a tenant is yet to start, but we welcome Halo's prospective bid to form a consortium to occupy the whole building."