Locals launch Clapton neighbourhood plan

Remy Zentar

People living and working in Chatsworth Road, Clapton have launched a neighbourhood plan to have more input into the development and future of the area.

The neighbourhood plan, launched by Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association, aims to “catch the gentrification” before it changes the area completely. The plan includes supporting Chatsworth Road Market, promoting accessibility, sustainability and creating a distinct neighbourhood identity.

Over the past few years, the area has seen much change, with new cafes, local boutiques and delis popping up along the road, giving the area a new and vibrant atmosphere. Local shop manager Remy Zentar said: “Locals have places to hang out and that has inspired people to stay in the area rather than going to Broadway Market or Shoreditch.”

However, the resurgence of trade along Chatsworth Road has been matched by an increase in property prices in Clapton, which have shot up by 39 per cent. Clapton is now the fourth most expensive area in Hackney, meaning that local people living in rented flats can no longer afford to live there.

This has led the Chatsworth Road Traders and Residents Association (CTRA) to take action. Urban designer Euan Mills, who is spokesman for CTRA, says residents are also concerned by the change of atmosphere in the area, with Broadway Market being an example of gentrification going too far.

He said that if the gentrification is not managed local people end up feeling “alienated from their own community” because they have no control over the transformation.

“Gentrification is at its early stage but we need to get involved now in order to manage the change.”

According to Mills, people now view east London as an investment opportunity but the Neighbourhood Plan wants to preserve the diverse character of Clapton.

Chatsworth Road already has a strong identity, so one of the biggest challenges is to balance the undeniable change occurring in east London and preserve the authenticity of the area.

Mills said: “It is important to get everybody involved. It does no good if it is only middle class people in Victorian houses who make the decisions; we need people from the estates as well.”

In December last year the coalition government introduced the Localism Bill as part of Prime Minister’s Big Society proposals. The legislation intends to delegate responsibility over the development of local communities to local governments, benefactors and charities. It advocates citizens taking initiative and control over their area.

Mills believes the plan is an example of the legislation in practice as it is a way in which locals can influence what happens in their neighbourhood.

He said: “The Localism Bill gives the local community new tools to work with but people need to know how to use these tools.”

Despite the success of CTRA, Mills fears that the government’s plan to outsource the responsibility of community development relies too much on local initiatives, which unfortunately can result in “weaker communities being left behind.”

The Neighbourhood Plan was presented at a local meeting in January and CTRA are collecting improvement suggestions from local people until the end of March. They will then take the plan to the council. The group have already finalised one of their projects, the reopening of the Hackney Homemade and Vintage Market, on March 20.

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