Dalston shopkeepers want payout for £2.3m facelift

Roadworks on Kingsland High Street (credit: Tom Jackson)
Roadworks on Kingsland High Street (credit: Tom Jackson)

BUSINESS leaders and entrepreneurs are demanding compensation for the short-term impact of the council’s £2.3m plan to regenerate Dalston town centre.

Many have labelled the project as “short-term pain for long-term gain”, but feel that the council should be doing more to help out businesses adversely affected.

The plans for Kingsland High Street include better walking and cycling routes, more trees, improved lighting, a new 20 mph speed limit and better access for wheelchair users.

Colin Jones of Hackney Co-operative Developments, a local economic development organisation, called for “organised compensation” from the council.

“Any inward investment into the area is always welcome,” he said, “but what’s happened is that Dalston’s become one large roadworks.”

“With that, the Overground line being closed until June for works, and the East London line being built, businesses have seen trade and revenue patterns changing. They’ve been adversely affected, fortunately none have had to close.” he said.

Richard Abbott, chief executive of local business support charity HBV Enterprise agreed that businesses must be supported throughout any disruptive redevelopment work.

“It’s crucial that every effort is made to absolutely minimise the negative effects of the redevelopment works on the business community, which after all is key to making Dalston town centre what it is today,” he said.

Mustafa Cicekci, owner of the popular Kingfisher Cafe on the High Street, said he was sceptical about the council’s plans.

“There has been a slump in business,” he said. “The small businesses on the high street will feel a big blow.

“It would be good to get some kind of relief, small businesses like us bear the brunt of [works in the area],” he said.

John Neilson, owner of the nearby Dalston Lane Cafe, fears some businesses may not survive the short-term effects.

“People say that it’s short-term pain for long-term gain, but with rising business rates, the recession, and the roadworks on top of it, it might be enough to finish some businesses off. It’s so difficult for small businesses to look long-term at the moment,” he said.

But Michael Hughes, Head of Development at Criterion Capital, who own Kingsland Shopping Centre, welcomed the plans.

“I think any redevelopment of Kingsland High Street will be a huge improvement on what we’ve got at the moment,” he said. “I don’t think there will be too much disruption to businesses in the short-term if the council are mindful of what they need to do.”

£1.3m of the regeneration funding is from the Mayor of London, with an extra £1m coming from the London Development Agency. The work is due to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “When the world comes here during the 2012 Games we want the place to look its best.

“These great projects will help enhance the Capital as a whole, giving local communities and visitors improved public space, and providing a legacy for London that lasts for many years to come.”