New Clerkenwell community group: ‘Developers think they are unstoppable around here – we have to fight back’
- Credit: Archant
Jacqueline Czelny thinks Clerkenwell has been ‘land grabbed’ by developers only interested in a quick buck. She is fighting back against ‘£3 coffee culture’ by leading a new tenants and residents’ association.
The Marx Memorial Library. St James’s Church. St John’s Gate. Charterhouse.
Clerkenwell is probably the most historic part of Islington. But does it come at a cost?
The newly formed Catherine Griffiths and Clerkenwell Community Tenants and Residents’ Association (TRA) certainly thinks so.
We all know Clerkenwell, with its desirable location on the fringe of the City, is suspectible to developers with their mind on the money.
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But the TRA also has money on the mind. It believes the traditional communities of Clerkenwell are being priced out.
Take Exmouth Market, for example. Since millions of pounds of investment by the Debenham Property Trust, it has become a plush destination high street.
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Good for visitors, perhaps, but less so for the tenants of nearby estates.
“It’s the little things that have gone,” says Jacqueline Czelny, chair of the TRA. “We used to have a laundrette in Exmouth Market. There was Clark’s pie and mash shop which was there for years.
“Now it has all gone. What do we have instead? Lots of expensive restaurants and cafes where a cup of coffee costs £3. There’s nowhere to do your basic shopping at a reasonable price.”
The TRA formed to fight for and protect Clerkenwell’s heritage for those who actually live there. One example is the NCP car park in Farringdon Road. Applicant Endurance Land wants to demolish it and build a 180-room hotel with a small amount of office and retail space.
The TRA believes this huge site should contribute to the vibrancy of Clerkenwell for those who already live there: with affordable housing and “useful” shops.
Islington Council agreed, rejecting the hotel plans in October last year on grounds they would “compromise the local economy” by not “maximising employment”.
Endurance, for its part, believes it would redevelop an “unattractive” site and that hotel patrons would use nearby businesses. It is taking Islington’s decision to appeal next month.
But the TRA is not appeased, and will fight it at the hearing. Jacqueline says: “Everyone knows about Clerkenwell’s history. Tourists love to come here. But it’s also an area where people live and work.
“For too long the residents here have been facing fiascos: the Mount Pleasant sorting office [where Boris Johnson approved a huge development of luxury flats], closure of Clerkenwell Fire Station and now this car park situation.
“The Finsbury Plan dictates that there should be affordable housing on the site. Instead, they want a budget hotel. They think they can make money out of it with Crossrail [which nearby Farringdon station will be part of] coming in.”
She adds: “It seems like these developers are unstoppable. Like so many other places across London, we in Clerkenwell are losing the fabric of our community. You look at Endurance’s website and they are doing land grabs across the whole city.
“Developers come in and claim they have all these ideas for the community, but have no real interest. So we formed the TRA to defend ourselves, defend our rights. If not, you can’t speak up for people.”
This month marks one year since celebrated Clerkenwell architect Dame Zaha Hadid died. What would she have made of all this?
“Her firm is still based in Bowling Green Lane,” Jacqueline says. “I think she would have had far better ideas for this area than expensive coffee shops and hotels.”
Are developers are ruining Clerkenwell? Or is investment necessary? Email our opinion column: firstname.lastname@example.org