Tuesday, December 12The Voice of London

Will Hackney Council be the UK’s first council to urge the reuse of London’s empty buildings?

The Mayor of Hackney Council has delivered a statement of support in the emerging lobby that has been established by ReSpace Projects. Potentially, Hackney might be the first council in the UK to adopt a community-minded approach to the reuse of empty buildings in the city.

In a ‘city makers’ conference that took place last night (Thursday, November 16th), a declaration of support from Mr Philip Glanville, the Mayor of Hackney Council, has been revealed, implying a potential transition in the council’s approach to the use of empty buildings in the city. Mr Glanville’s statement was excitingly announced by the hosting CEO of ReSpace Projects, Mr Gee Sinha, who has developed a model and a lobby calling for the regulation of holistic and innovative regeneration using empty buildings and wasted resources. In 2016-2017 alone, an estimated amount of 20,000 houses stood empty and unloved in London for a period of minimum six months. Mr Glanville’s support in this emerging lobby may imply the first step towards a social and environmental conscious regeneration, a format that Hackney Council might be the first in the UK to adapt.

 

In a letter to ReSpace Projects CEO, Gee Sinha, Mr Glanville has said: “As a collaboration between community groups, developers and businesses, I would encourage local authorities like Hackney to forge ways in which such innovative social movements could be supported more fully. Planning, Property and Finance departments could look at supporting the more socially minded developers, businesses and services to collaborate with groups like ReSpace Projects.”

 

The conference marked the upcoming closing of The Hive in Dalston, which has been the showcase for the ReSpace Projects model in the past two and a half years. Being transformed from an empty East London warehouse, The Hive was a home-for-free to over 150 people, a stage for hundreds of events, a community centre for the local people, and a place that gave away £25,000 worth of stuff, from a £250 overall budget.

 

Last night, a group of socially-minded developers, architects, planners and activists gathered to support and urge an innovative system of reuse, inspired by The Hive. Among the attendees were Felix Wight, Director at Repowering London, Clare Ollerenshaw, Circular Economy Manager at the London Waste and Recycling Board, and Debbie Warrener, a Director of Inner Leadership- Outer Change.

City Makers Conference. Photo Credit: Adi Cohen

 

Mr Michael Gerrard, the CEO of the development company, Investland, who owns the building that was given to The Hive, has also delivered a speech at the conference: “When I first walked in and saw how the building was used, I was taken back. The Hive has given people who needed it another opportunity, to get themselves up on their feet, to be in the building in a safe and secure environment”. To his words, he was moved by the impressive scale of cultural and social events that regularly took place at The Hive, which has given a stage to numerous young and creative people within the local area. He stated: “I hope that after today The Hive will kickstart other landlords into giving their buildings to charities’ use, to people like The Hive, who’ll make the building to something that the community can get a pleasure of it”.

 

With an average of 8,000 people living rough on London’s streets each year in London, against the enormous amount of empty buildings in the city, the urgency for authorities’ responses to it is remarkably apparent. The idea of The Hive and its benefit to the local area has been highlighted by its Founder, Mr Sinha: “Not only that we served as a venue to the people of the local area, but I think we’ve also started up local businesses, helped artists, helped musicians, we’ve given a place to stay for so many people who needed it, we’ve fed people, we’ve given inspiration, and I hope we helped people to collaborate, create and combine, as the ultimate aim of the Hive is to create a place where communities can come together.”

Gee Sinha, the CEO of ReSpace Projects and Founder of The Hive. Photo Credit: Adi Cohen

 

The essentiality of a collaborative and innovative environment in the city has been stressed even further through Mr Glanville’s statement: “Increasing co-operation between Council, communities, business and the voluntary sector will be vital if we are to face the challenges that face us, not just here, but around the city and the world. I am proud that Hackney, as an innovative and forward thinking borough, has incubated a sparkling example of such a community-led collaboration. From the time I first ventured into the Hive Dalston I have watched the progress of ReSpace Projects with interest and two years later I am pleased that they have completed their project with such outstanding results. The Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy has highlighted that this is the way in which we will empower our civic and commercial communities and increase creative collaboration.”

 

Words: Adi Cohen  I Subbing: Lotta Behrens

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