London Assembly warns on “arts led” regeneration

Jim Dunton

Report urges mayor to protect Hackney Wick and review plans for Olympic Park bridge

London Assembly members have called on mayor Sadiq Khan to do more to protect the capital’s arts scene from rising property prices – often driven by the appeal of the creative industries themselves.

A new report from the assembly’s Regeneration Committee urges Khan to create a “bold programme” to support sustainable culture in the capital, and urges him to make east London’s Hackney Wick a pilot “Creative Enterprise Zone”.

The report, named Creative Tensions, highlights the impact of regeneration on the kind of low-rent studio and performance space that is vital to artists on low incomes and builds on work carried out under previous mayor Boris Johnson.

One of those reports, 2015’s London’s Grassroots Music Venues: Rescue Plan, found that the capital had lost 35% of the performance venues considered to be most important to nurturing new live talent, with such spaces having declined from 136 to 88 in the years since 2007

Rising land values and the conversion of closed pubs to residential use were cited among the reasons for the trend.

The new assembly report notes that London is home to 857 galleries, 215 museums, 320 live music venues and 241 theatres.

It says one in six jobs in the capital are in the creative industries, while 80% of visitors cite “culture and heritage” as the reason they have come.

The Regeneration Committee said Khan needed to ensure the next London Plan blueprint included policies policy that would deliver affordable cultural workspace in every large new planning development.

It also said City Hall should carry out research to better understand “affordability” for the cultural and creative sectors.



Members said Khan should look at the regeneration of Hackney Wick as a matter of urgency as the former industrial area to the west of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park was home to Europe’s densest concentration of artists’ studios.

They called on the mayor to consider making the area the capital’s first Creative Industries Zone, and to review proposals for a new bridge over the River Lea, designed by Sheppard Robson, which will result in the loss of industrial buildings at Vittoria Wharf.

Committee chair Navin Shah, a practicing architect, said there was a tension between London’s global cultural renown at a time when rocketing land values, increasing running costs and reduced public funding were a threat to creative enterprises.

“Regeneration must also protect and deliver culture,” he said.

“The mayor has a key role to play but we also need to make sure that local communities truly lie at the heart of all cultural regeneration projects.”

The committee also urged Khan to make sure that his plans for a biennial “London Borough of Culture” had sustainability at their heart, with the protection of facilities and workspace part of the award criteria.


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