Working classes 'being pushed out by East End's gentrification'

Halima Begum... returning to Brick Lane where she grew up, now facing working class exodus from 'gentrification'. 

Halima Begum... returning to Brick Lane where she grew up, now facing working class exodus from 'gentrification'. - Credit: Kois Miah

Working class communities are in flight from the East End's mass redevelopment and “gentrification” amid encroachment from the City, a report on social trends has revealed. 

The London borough that has become “gentrified” the most is Tower Hamlets, on the City Fringe, with neighbouring Newham third on the list, according to year-long research by the Runnymede Trust think tank.   

“I know first hand the benefits gentrification can bring, as well as its heavy blow,” Runnymede Trust chief executive Dr Halima Begum revealed.  

“I was brought up in Brick Lane and I think back to walking down my now-unrecognisable street to the days when I had to push past the National Front newspaper stand outside our squat.  

“We ran the gauntlet of physical blows and racist invective simply to get to school. Children going to my old school today are no longer subjected to such experiences.” 


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But Bangladeshi businesses in Brick Lane were now finding it hard to compete with gentrification. 

“We need to offer businesses support to manage the growth on the doorstep of the City,” she added. “Regeneration should not come at the expense of working-class communities which are essential to daily life.” 

Tower Hamlets... the London borough facing highest gentrification - light areas where effect is greatest 

Tower Hamlets... the London borough facing highest gentrification - light areas where effect is greatest - Credit: Runnymede Trust

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The study by Runnymede, with its Bethnal Green HQ at the heart of the changing East End, shows “gentrification” rates in these areas are nine to 13 per cent higher than other places.

Ethnic minorities are the first to move out in these circumstances, researchers found.  

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies think tank, which co-produced the research, fears some communities have been “pushed to the margins” by local authorities and the government. 

Its director, Ellie Mae O’Hagan, said: “This study must mark a turning point in how we manage gentrification. Rent control must be introduced and a social housing programme as big as our efforts after the Second World War for everyone to have the chance to put down roots and build a community.” 

Recommendations include at least 50 per cent social housing in all new developments, expanding community-land trusts and securing “right to return” for families on housing estates that are undergoing mass regeneration.  

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