Last week, Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe announced the council had won a £5.3 million slice of the Government's post-riots Regeneration Fund, a large slab of which he would be using to create a designer brands shopping centre. But who, in a borough where one in five people receives housing benefit, does he think will be buying the designer goods?
When the riots occurred last summer, looters were condemned for materialistically lusting after goods they couldn't afford. They rampaged through high street stores like JD Sports and Comet, swiping up trainers and widescreen tellies, while commentators tutted at the very naffness of their thefts. Now the council has decided to really give them something to nick.
Its reasoning for the centre lies in wanting to overturn negative perceptions of the borough, increase footfall and create 200 jobs.
This is reflective of an attitude that whitewashes the riots with expensive, large-scale developments like designer shopping centres, while trying to ship the problem out through welfare cuts that'll see the borough become increasingly unaffordable to the poorest residents.
While Mayor Pipe represents the Labour Party, it seems a shame that to claim a portion of the government's money, he had to appeal to its most nakedly consumerist nature. Developments such as this can exacerbate tensions between existing, poorer sections of the community and wealthier newcomers and make little impact on the key problems of unemployment and lack of opportunity.
In an area where more than one in ten people overall are without work, the level of investment for the creation of so few jobs seems incredible. What guarantee is there that these jobs will go to local people rather than fashion students or staff transferred from the brands' other stores?
Retail is a notoriously insecure industry with little in the way of longevity or training. These are not the apprenticeships that politicians apparently desire for young men and women starting out in life.
In a sick irony, the most appropriate job in the shopping centre for some of those young people who looted and rioted last summer, will be as a security guard.
So who will be buying the goods? The proposed site of the shopping centre is within spitting distance of the new Westfield complex in Stratford, which surely has enough designer brands for all of east London to empty its pockets in.
Perhaps it will be Hackney's young, whose unemployment rate has gone up by 80% since last January. Or their parents, some of the one in five public sector employees whose jobs are under threat from a second round of cuts this year totalling £26 million?
"Hackney Central has so much to offer in terms of culture, vibrancy and opportunity," Mayor Jules Pipe said when he announced the new centre. None of which are likely to be demonstrated by the development.
It is yet another addition to the area that could be found in any major town centre. Despite the council's bluster about sensitively developing commercial and residential land according the borough's rich history and current population needs, we end up with overpriced flats designed by Barratt Homes and a shopping centre no one can afford to shop in.
Maybe having the opportunity to work and shop in high-end stores will raise the aspirations of young people in the area, but I have a hunch it'll take a good deal more than that.
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