By Magnus Boyd
Popular local businesses like the much loved Garner’s coffee shop – where you could get a tea for under a quid – and now Hanna, the Korean Supermarket and favourite student lunch stop, are being kicked out of Store Street by the Duke of Bedford (the American born and educated Andrew Russell) – using large rent hikes as the boot.
As well as the historical institution Olivelli’s Hotel, small popular businesses are being forced to close and even the College of Law has baulked at the rent demands now being made by the Duke – all to make way for an all too predictable ‘gentrification’ scheme that will surely end up ripping the soul from what was an interesting and vibrant little corner of Fitzrovia.
The Duke’s bailiff’s – Dorman & Company of Edgeware – closed down Hanna on Saturday and their brutish red ‘WARNING’ notice now proclaims their possession from the cleared out shop’s window.
Tthis is yet another example of those who happen to own the land only by virtue of historical happenstance, stepping all over those who live in a community and on those who have put in their hard work, talent and creativity to actually make a livelihood within the community.
This impacts all of us in another way too – if Russell were to rip up a wild English meadow and replace it with a field of GM crops – he would be hounded for it – yet the obliteration of business and cultural diversity in our urban landscape to make way for what will inevitably be the usual sterile mix of high street multinationals is allowed to pass.
The unfair treatment of local businesses and local people at the hands of Russell and his hired agencies was clearly too much for one local as you can see from the pictures. The shop will be redeveloped so no doubt the window would have gone anyway – but the point, however small, is made. The note is a certainly poignant snapshot and a perhaps small reminder that people in this city and in this area will not just sit back quietly when faced with this kind of injustice.
It is surely time that we in the UK looked seriously at how huge tracts of land continue to be held in the hands of so few people and how that land holding gives those few the kind of disproportionate power over other people’s lives – and over the cultural landscape we all live in – that should not be tolerated at all in a 21st century democracy.
But until that happens, it is the local government and the planners who need to take their civil position far more seriously and start properly protecting the interests of local people and businesses – the community – instead of the narrow interests of a single aristocratic land owner who does not live here, does not have the community’s interests at heart and, unlike those he is driving out, has done absolutely nothing to earn a livelihood granted, at the expense of others, by accident of birth.