Nimbyism gone wild in Homerton or hate group

Amongst other things campaigners claim Sacred Heart Lodge a grade II listed building, is a house of ill repute offering ‘massages’.

Protesting against some big corporations or big developments coming to our neighborhood, is nothing new in Hackney and is understandable, but there is something about a Homerton groups tactics, that reminds me of spiteful games children play in the school yard.  For them,  protesting the 25 room budget hotel Silk House also known as Sacred Lodge, has become a blood sport, which they relish with frighting hysterical fervor. What is more disturbing is that such small groups could wield such influence based on their collective hysteria, racial prejudices and smugness. The new owners are Asians which appears to have triggered them.

They call themselves  E9 Residents, and have been trying to shut down a hotel operating at 100-102 Hassett Road in Homerton, a building with an interesting history.

The former convent/orphanage and now grade II listed building, was built in the 1800’s.  Currently it is being used as a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO) licensed by Hackney Council, but  has been advertising as a budget hotel,  charging as little £26 per night, even before planning permission was granted, which has infuriated some local residents who have formed a group to shut them down.

The owners of 100-102 Hassett Road are not without blame.  In January they were served with an Enforcement Notice by London Fire Brigade.   They have submitted, altered and withdrawn an absurd amount of planning applications since 2009, which have included an application to develop the building into a nursing home, hotel and multiple flats (including 5 bedroom apts) requiring a multistory extension. Understandingly unsettling for their immediate neighbours, who have become suspicious and worried of their intentions.

Although the latest application had the full support of the Council’s professional planning and conservation advisers, it was refused at a  Hackney Planning sub committee meeting on 14 May , where a handful of the residents and their friends opposing it, made their feelings known.  For full effect, they even brought along several children including toddlers. After the planning committee refused it, a member of E9 Residents was heard to say: “It’s the children wot did it”

The councils refusal has energized them and they (E9 Residents group), have since contacted all the web sites Silk House Hotel advertises on, which included online booking sites, in an effort to shut them down and promise to wage war and keep the pressure on.

After a string of comments from me and others,  E9 Residents group have taken to commenting about their plans through back channels and rarely on twitter or blog.  They now see themselves as champions and gate keepers for E9 and Homerton.  In fact the last meeting they had on Tuesday, was only open to a select few and was held at one of their members homes, instead of a public hall they had been offered in the neighbourhood.

What sets this group apart from other neighborhood campaigns, are the guerrilla tactics they have embarked on and the way they took to Twitter, a blog and online petition to make their feelings known and to rally more troops. It wasn’t your garden variety neighbourhood action group, but more like sophomoric tag teams playing bullies.  According to one of the building owners, Naveed Mir,  some of the campaigners have got personal with their actions and have crossed the line.

He told me recently: “They have accosted guests and employees outside the building, posted stickers with blue tack on the door and exterior walls,  indicating they are not wanted in the area and even racially abused me.”

He explained how the abuse came about.  “After I realised there were objections to us being there, I knocked on Holly Knights door to discuss concerns she and others had, as she and her husband were quite vocal, but was surprised when I was met with hostility and a raging woman who told me my type wasn’t wanted here.  She even slammed the door in my face. They have not being open to dialogue with me”

Strategically placed litter? click to enlarge

When I pointed out a photo depicting litter posted on twitter, by E9 resident group member Paul Herbert, hotel employee Omar told me: “It’s just another example of their harassment, it’s obvious the items were deliberately placed there.”

E9 Residents  group leader Sarah Miller declined to be interviewed but pressured me to sign the petition, despite me not living anywhere near Hassett Road or the ward. She also promised she would speak with me if I came to the planning hearing on May 15th.  “We need as many people there as possible to object”,  she said.

I have since followed their ferocious daily updates on Twitter, where they have openly admitted preferring squatters than the residents or hotel owners. Such is their ignorance and loathing, it’s prompted one person who signed the petition, to post: “My fears are they may preem[sic] young vunerable[sic] children into crime, whether it be drugs, sexual or other forms of crime”.

Paul Herbert made his young child comment on the petition site : “I can’t play in my street anymore with my friends because it is not safe. I miss playing out in my street a lot”.  Something tells me Herbert is not the type of father who would let his children play on the sidewalks on Hassett Road, even without the presence of the hotel, not when he has his own safe back yard.

So far E9 Residents group have failed to come up with any tangible reasons why a small hotel on Hassett Road  isn’t appropriate.  Unless you consider the following unsubstantiated claims as grounds to refuse planning permission:

People spitting on the street  – No evidence of it, although people spit all over Hackney.

Drinking and carousing outside the hotel – There isn’t a bar on the premises

Smoking in the rooms – one photo of woman with cigarette dangling out of window.

Fear of adults grooming children for sex work or drug deals – I might need a new crystal ball.

Parking  –  Hassett Road has no parking restrictions meaning parking is premium as people from all over, including Homerton station, park their cars.

Noise  – No proof.

Prostitution No proof

The fact is  if it were a cutesy chic boutique hotel, they would all be besides themselves with glee while singing it’s praises and promoting it the way Sarah Miller bangs on 24/7 about the wonders of trendy Chatsworth Road Markets cake shops and it’s oh so trendy chic boutique hotel.

Again in Hackney, another example of  as long as it is aesthetically pleasing to a group, it’s welcome in their neighbourhood.

Naveed Mir is appealing the refusal, which will be be determined by the impartial Planning Inspectorate.

 

 

About Remi

Remi Hackney Hive founder, publisher and contributor. Hackneyite and all round Girl Friday, who couldn't wait to leave Hackney and London behind her. After hitching her wagon in California, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana for 18 years, with a brief spell in Mexico, the prodigal daughter returned happy to put an unconventional and risky past behind her. She is owned by her two dogs Deffer(a Jack Russell & Darcy a Jack Russell/Pomeranian mix) and runs a London based pet sitting business. The big smoke is home for the moment, but she desperately yearns wide open spaces, where she hopes to call home in the near future.

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7 Responses to "Nimbyism gone wild in Homerton or hate group"

  1. Lorenzo  27/05/2012 at 6:01 pm

    I have been interested in the argument and debate but this strikes me as equally imbalanced. To keep describing the planning officers as ” the latest application had the full support of the Council’s professional planning and conservation advisers ” suggests a rigour that doesn’t exist in the planning process. An application will arrive on an overworked (moreso after the dept.) took 35+% cuts officers desk and it is subject to all too often a cursory examination of issues.

    It is not as rigorous a process as it should be and hence if a number of people object it can and will go to committee for further examination and scrutiny. The committee are free to override the officers opinion as happened here after both sides have stated their case.

    Inevitably hyperbole and embellishment creep in as you have illustrated – most are rejected out of hand as not relevant to the planning process. What is curious is that the building was subject to an enforcement notice that should have triggered questions in the planning officers mind. That alone could have been cause to reject this application. Given that the intention appears to be to legitimaise the building and to have turned it into a “boutique hotel” your criticism of the residents on that score seems misplaced.

    Equally you adopt a tone of “nibyism” to describe critics of a scheme here and on other posts, using it in the purely perjorative sense. However, there should be active discussion and engagement within all communities about buildings that raise concern and all critics should not be paraded in the negative since all too often a failure for communities to engage or to discuss schemes has seen a diminishment of Hackney’s environment.

    What we should all be asking, when schemes big or small appear, is whether it is the best scheme available or could they do better for the greatest number of people? Planning officers are not infallible and I personally would like to see more people taking an interest not just in their road, area of immediate vicinity but the Borough as a whole, helping and guiding better decisions and poitnting out facts where they can to overworked planning team.

  2. Remi
    Remi Makinde  28/05/2012 at 6:31 pm

    Sure it sounds good on paper but it translates differently. I know planning officers are not infallible, but I believe in some cases they are in a better position than Councillors who represent their voters.

    Hyperbole? Rhetoric? Absolutely not. I have given an accurate description of the tactics they have used and to any reasonable person, it’s clearly playing dirty, and that should not be acceptable.

    I never mentioned the owners wanting to turn it into a boutique hotel. Where did you get that from?

  3. Lorenzo  28/05/2012 at 11:07 pm

    The boutique hotel bit was attributed to the owner in another news article.

    Whilst I would agree Councillors can be swayed by pressure from potential voters, planning officers are very far from infallible and the point of the system is surely to allow consideration across the board. If a planning officer looks at basic planning law but fails to consider the wider area and other matters then the system is one of checks and balances. As seems to have happened here, where both pro and anti can make the case in chamber and be subjected to questioning allowing for wider issues to be aired.

    I disgree that you do not employ a level of hyperbole to discuss the pressure group and whilst some of the comments strike me as frankly silly, I feel it odd that their complaints that they see as legitimate should be so easily dismissed by you and the owner. If they have harassed the staff or owner, or abused him, then contact the police and make a relevant complaint or else it becomes a he said/she said tit for tat. But all complaints can be see as legitimate if they cause disquiet and there are grounds (in this case an illegal operation in spite of a closure notice and changing plans without discussion) and should be addressed and not dismissed as either nimbyism or as a “hate group”.

    As for their tactics, whilst you quickly dismiss issues such as noise and a photo of litter you seem quick to embrace the opposing view without any more concrete proof just heresay from the other interested party.

    As I have posted before it is hard to engage people to comment on proposals and I do not share your concerns about nimbyism. I think it is healthy and important that people feel they can express views and have discussion on their areas and communities in the widest possible context.

    That engagement of residents is very important as they are the ones who live and work in areas and we can ensure that Hackney as a borough is not subsumed by developers and their quest for easy money without fair consideration.

    If, and I do not know if any of the allegations made in this piece or by workers in the “hotel” or by the owner can be substantiated, but if they are found to be true then shame on the residents. But people fight when scared for their communities and engagement is better than no discussion or arrogance and ignoring the neighbours. You can dismiss that if you wish but in my area – a good distance from this – I am told by developers that it’s too bad, they will do what they want and tough luck for living in the area. When told that in robust language when raising legitimate planning concerns, I know I vow to fight them tooth and nail. Less so if they choose to discuss.

  4. Murray  29/05/2012 at 8:48 am

    When did the complainants first move into the area? Within the last year or two? Within the last five to ten years? What sort of jobs do they do? This sounds to me like these residents want “gentrification”. They want to see the prices of their houses rise. And to hell with the poor people whose families have lived in the area for generations.

  5. Lorenzo  30/05/2012 at 2:30 pm

    @Murray it seems that many have lived in the street all their lives others in the area for many years.

    Guessing part of my issue with this reporting is the loaded headline – nimbyism should not always be presented as pejorative and to conflate as done here with a notional hate group is disturbing.

  6. Remi
    Remi Makinde  06/06/2012 at 4:38 am

    I appear to have deleted your last response along with some spam messages left.

    For someone who ‘claims’ to not live in Hackney you are a bit eager aren’t you?

    These people (the tag team of 5 of them) are not scared and I make no apologies for calling them exactly what they are. I have interacted with them and seen how they operate have you?

    The group who has a legitimate concerns, lost my sympathy when they got nasty.

    You asked why the hotel did not report the acts to the police. In the great scheme of things to some people, it isn’t worth the effort, unlike irritating curtain twitches and bored housewives hell bent on silly spitefulness, there are people in the community, who just get on with things.

    Do you know how much effort goes into reporting a crime?

    They have changed their tune now, but I have a feeling the spiteful protesters will be more careful in future now that they have been exposed.

    I think I’ve written enough hyperbole to last me a few hours.

    Over and out….

  7. Tom Silva  16/06/2012 at 11:36 pm

    Have you read this? The police were involved when the E9 group took things too far.

    http://www.duchessofhackney.com/2012/06/10/venture-to-hassett-road-in-homerton-at-your-own-risk-white-middle-class-warriors-at-war/

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