Climate Emergency Centre set to open in Hackney

Young demonstrators hold placards as they attend a climate change protest. Pic:Ben Stanhall

A charitable organisation is planning to open a community-run space in Hackney for environmental activism using a vacant town centre building.

The Climate Emergency Centre group, an environmental charity describes themselves as a group of concerned citizens whose mission is “to come together and build relationships in a common space” and says its community run hubs are “for the benefit of people and the planet.” 

They run five physical sites throughout the country using empty town centre premises ranging from Debenhams, Homebase and River Island in Ilford, Staines, Lewes, Swindon and Tiverton, with the Hackney centre anticipated to be one of the next to open to the public.

The charity, which grew out of 30 years of grassroots environmental community centre projects following the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, also has teams in over 33 towns and cities across the country.

There is not yet an official confirmed site for the Hackney centre however John Phoenix, a founder of the initiative and trustee for Space Generators charity told Eastlondonlines: “Nothing is finalised as of yet but there are some early negotiations going on, for a building in North London”. They are hoping to secure and open up a Hackney premise in the coming months.

Due to the finical burden of the pandemic, multiple lockdowns and a general change in the publics approach to shopping from Highstreet to online, Britain’s high streets are becoming increasingly desolate, no longer drawing busy crowds in the way they once did.

The British Retail Consortium reported a 77.8 per cent year-on-year decline in high streets shopping for the year 2020.

Linda Lowrance who helped to set up the other East London site which recently opened in Ilford, told the Guardian: “There really isn’t a downside to this… if you have a hundred people going in and out of one of these centres that will also help the business next door”.

Phoenix hopes to open centres in every community across the UK. He said: “There are hundreds of thousands of empty buildings across the UK that should be used for environment and for local communities”

“its absolutely critical that we get these centres opened, the planet is on fire… and these places are fire stations, they are community-led solutions”

Phoenix stressed not only the need for these centres in to help combat the climate change emergency but also the benefit of having an open communal hub for locals to come together and take part in activities. He said: “Every area, every community needs one of the spaces”.

These Climate Emergency Centres are run by the communities themselves using vacant buildings in the local area. Owners of these premisses are given the option to reduce their business rates payments by up to 100 per cent, by leasing the property to the charitable organisation. Phoenix described it as a “win, win for everyone involved”.

Centres which have opened already have been used to run community activities such as art exhibitions, exercise classes, sustainable living classes, bike repair facilities, vegan cafes and more.

Phoenix has also recently set up a Just Giving page calling for people to donate to the charitable organisation to help ensure the opening of Climate Emergency Centres in local areas throughout the country. Their target is to raise £20,000 to help fund the community-led projects.

To keep up to date with information regarding the opening of the Hackney Branch, visit their website here.

Leave a Reply