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October 09

Saving An East London Icon

By Ella Miista
If you’ve ever spent a Saturday afternoon at Broadway Market, sat in cool corner at London Fields or just walked along Regent’s Canal in East London, you’ve probably come across the Bethnal Green gasholders. They’re an East London icon, but they are in danger to be demolished. Locals have launched a petition to save the structures. Though they make for the perfect Instagram photo when the sun sets behind them, that’s not the reason. National Grid has an explanation to why they want them torn down: “The gas holders occupy large areas of land which can be cleaned up and redeveloped to provide much needed housing in London and other towns and cities.” Of course in theory this sounds great but the housing problem in London isn’t to do with the lack of housing. The problem is the prices. Having been technically homeless for the past month I’ve found plenty of available places. It’s just I don’t want to have my whole income direct debited to a greedy landlord. Boring new-builds with a hundred apartments isn’t going to solve this. Regulations that don’t give landlords unlimited power would. Besides, a location overlooking the canal, a walk away from Broadway Market... We all know this will be yet another building for city types to move into. Artists or families that have lived here for generations will probably not be able to afford it. They are the people that make East London the vibrant creative hub it is. We don’t believe East London is over or even dying, but tearing down one icon at a time isn’t exactly helping preserve it either. How about creating more green spaces? Insert a patch of grass here and add some flowers there to create a wonderful open air space instead. This isn’t about giving a purpose to unused land, it’s a plain and simple opportunity to cash in on a really amazing location. The lovely folk at Residents First have started a petition for Tower Hamlets council to save the gasholders. We’ve signed and if you feel this is a worthy cause, so should you. We’re becoming more and more disconnected from our own past. Tearing down the gasholders isn’t just another step to further gentrify the area but also to destroy the area’s connection with its industrial past. There’s a reason why East London is one of the most exciting places to live. The goal of making it safer and greener shouldn’t turn it into suburbia for cold hard cash. Malcolm Tucker  1998
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