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Peckham – The last man standing

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The second in a two-part series discussing the impact of gentrification in South London

Gentrification. Good, bad or just inevitable?

In the first part of this series we covered what gentrification was and why it happens. This part of the series will focus on the impact of gentrification in Peckham and whether there have been any positives to come from this.

Peckham was historically a home the migrants and working class with a vast range of ethnic and racial diversity. In 1990s the area began its redevelopment following an investment from European Union to build Peckham Library. Fast forward to 2017 and two clear streams of individuals have emerged the property developers and poor people.  The end of all life, at least how we know it, comes not by explosives but the boredom of financial viability assessments.[1]

How have things changed?

Anyone familiar with Peckham will know that Rye Lane is where it all happens. It is the epicenter of cultural diversity with a plethora of shops selling cheap vegetables from across the world and an abundance of chicken shops.

Rye Lane features several Georgian and Victorian buildings which have been protected from demolition through the work of the Peckham Society and Peckham Vision. In 2011, Rye Lane became a Conservation Area in recognition of its architectural and historic interest.[2]

Slowly the area is becoming known for housing a plethora of South London’s hippest bars and clubs, tucked neatly in between shops and markets that boast decades of heritage. The most famous emblem of heritage being the Bussey building. As with most redevelopment plans areas like this often find themselves in the firing line – thankfully this building is safe for now.

Courtesy of Financial Times

Who are the people being affected?

As was discussed in the previous article, the first to be effected are usually the small businesses and this is certainty the case with the hair salons on Blenheim grove. [For more information watch this video: https://www.channel4.com/news/peckhams-afro-caribbean-hairdressers-fight-gentrification-threat ] This video perfectly articulates the plight of the salon owners, which makes for a very interesting story.

The positives of gentrification

Gentrification is not, contrary to popular opinion, necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. Providing local businesses are able to adapt to the changing demographic they are catering to, there is no reason that they should not stand to benefit from the coming directions. A prime example of this is Corals (the locally-owned restaurant, not the betting shop). Previously known as Lerryn’s,  the vibrant café has revamped and become a quirky local restaurant & bar still owned partly by its original owners. The bottom line? Taking a risk and embracing change may have positive payoffs.

Peckham has become this unique melting pot of demographics.

You have all the underground hipster places on one side and then there are the more traditionally Peckham, Afro-Caribbean places on the other side.[3]

It almost feels like a meeting of the minds.

The question that remains for many of the ‘original’ locals is how long before their culture heritage has been completely ebbed away from the area. To answer that simply no time soon.

Rye Lane is home to many culturally diverse independent businesses particularly within the African and Asian communities showing that they will continue to play a vital role in the areas development. With that being said no matter how many perks gentrification might provide, it eventually ends up hitting the most vulnerable the hardest. Areas may be cleaned but often to the detriment of the ‘original’ locals who are often left feeling unsettled.

So, what is your verdict, good bad or just inevitable?

[1] https://nimahajirasouliha.jimdo.com/gentrification-in-peckham/
[2] https://www.southlondonclub.co.uk/blog/a-brief-history-of-rye-lane-peckham
[3] http://igor.gold.ac.uk/~msegg002/wordpress/2016/10/11/gentrification-peckham-london/
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