‘They’re buying Brixton brick by brick’ – Locals protest as tower vote looms

Brixton activists took to the streets yesterday ahead of a council decision on plans for an unpopular new office tower.

Activists banged drums and held banners in a socially-distanced demonstration outside Lambeth Town Hall between 1 and 2pm.

This evening, members of Lambeth Council Planning Applications Committee will make a decision on proposals for the Pope’s Road development.

The council remains ‘minded to approve’ developers’ plan for a 20-storey tower over Brixton’s iconic Electric Avenue, despite widespread opposition.

Nick Anim, of Extinction Rebellion Lambeth, said: “What Hondo is doing right now is buying Brixton brick by brick.

“This is not going to serve the local community whatsoever, this is just going to be an investment of capital by a hedge fund and they’re going to be making a lot of profit at the expense of local people, and so we are dead against it.”

Taylor McWilliams, head of Hondo AG, is also known for his work as a club DJ. CREDIT: Daniel Gayne

Developer Hondo AG owns the nearby Brixton Market and claims this development will deliver 2,000 jobs and £2.8m a year for the local economy, as well as a new public square and community space.

But the plans met a cold reception locally, with The Brixton Society, Extinction Rebellion Lambeth, MP Helen Hayes, the Brixton Market Traders Federation, and the Brixton Recreation Centre lining up in opposition.

A Hondo spokesperson said: “Despite an aggressive social media campaign that has resulted in death threats, there is a diverse range of opinion in Brixton.”

Lambeth council’s neighbourhood consultation ended with 1838 (87%) comments objecting to the proposals, with just 260 comments of support registered.

Locals have questioned the need for more office space in Brixton. CREDIT: Daniel Gayne

Mr Anim, too, was skeptical: “Hondo are making all the right noises to the local people in order to get in here.

“But once they get in, let’s see what happens in five years’ time. Five years’ time what we will find is further gentrification.”

Local economist Susan Steed was concerned about the creation of a local monopoly: “Hondo already runs two covered markets. I think that is too much power for one landlord. They are pricing out some businesses that have been here for generations.”

Brixton Market’s Nour Cash and Carry, a family-run grocery, nearly met this fate this summer when Hondo tried to evict them.

A viral campaign saved Nour from closure, but the episode did not endear locals to the company.

The Brixton Society complained about the building’s size, in an area which even the Council has said is unsuitable for tall buildings

They also echoed a criticism made by many in Brixton; that the large amount of office space does not serve local needs.

Steadman Scott, co-founder of the Brixton Recreational Centre’s award-winning Afewee Training Centre, was outraged at the lack of community consultation.

A protestor holds a sign in opposition to the proposed tower in Brixton
Nearly 90% of consultation responses opposed the plans. CREDIT: Daniel Gayne

He said: “We built this part of London when nobody would come here and live. Now it’s the hip thing and they don’t want us to be part of it. They should be putting up something that will bring unity to the community.”

A council spokesperson said: “We don’t normally comment on ongoing planning applications, at least until they’ve been through the entire process.”

The Planning Application Meeting is due to meet at 7pm on 3 November, having postponed a final decision in August.

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