‘It will kill the community’: residents fight to save London warehouse district

‘It will kill the community’: residents fight to save London warehouse district –

Since Ata moved to the UK five years ago he has found his home in London’s warehouses. The aspiring actor was drawn to the community of musicians and artists who live and work in them.

But after moving to a warehouse in north London, Ata heard about plans to demolish and redevelop the area. “My immediate thought was ‘oh no, not again’,” he says. The two other warehouses he had lived in were also pulled down to make way for luxury flats.

Ata is one of more than 100 people living and working at the Omega Works warehouses in Haringey who could face homelessness if the redevelopment plans are approved by the council, stamping out “one of London’s last affordable artist communities”.

The Omega Works warehouses in Haringey, north London
More than 100 people live and work at the Omega Works warehouses in Haringey, north London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Residents allege they were not invited to consultations and only became aware of the planned works when they found a flyer on a lamp-post. A spokesperson for the owner and developer, MajorLink, says it has “engaged with residents more than the requirement”.

As word spread of the redevelopment, Ata’s friends and neighbours started organising and the Save the Warehouses campaign was born.

“If this place gets knocked down, it will never come back. The community is deeply rooted to these spaces,” Caitlin Strongarm, the campaign organiser, says. “These spaces aren’t just our homes but our livelihoods as well and if we lose them, people will lose everything, lose our incomes as well as our community and our family and our shelter.”

A community of artists and musicians inside the warehouse communal space
A community of artists and musicians face homelessness if the plans are approved. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Strongarm, 30, has lived in a unit in the warehouses with her partner, Alex, 31, since 2021, which sits in the Haringey warehouse district, a former industrial site in south Tottenham.

Under the plans submitted to the council in March, most of Omega Works, made up of Omega A and Omega B, would be demolished. Omega A, where Strongarms’ unit sits, would be converted into 60 warehouse-style living rooms and 76 residential units up to eight storeys high. Omega B would form 36 new flats and some commercial floorspace.

The consultation period, where residents could share their concerns, ended on 19 May 2023 but people can submit comments until a decision is made. MajorLink denies residents were not involved in discussions. “I’m very interested,” Strongarm says, “and I didn’t hear a thing.”

Omega Works is also home to Snap Studios, an independent recording studio “built from the ground up” 14 years ago. Some of the UK’s best-known artists have recorded at the studio, including Stormzy, Kate Bush, Lily Allen, Liam Gallagher, The Streets and Wretch 32, who grew up in Tottenham.

Marco Pasquariello inside Snap Studios, an independent recording studio in the warehouse district
Marco Pasquariello inside Snap Studios, an independent recording studio in the Haringey warehouse district. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Marco Pasquariello, the studio manager, says it would be devastating if the warehouses are demolished because they are “a massive cultural part of the borough”.

“We’ve built something really homegrown and super-independent, and we’ve managed to play in the league of studios that we never even dreamed of,” he says. “The studio itself might reopen in a different incarnation but it’ll be hard to see a way to reopen anything on the scale of this in the current economic climate, which is really sad.”

Under the plans, tenants will have first right of refusal, which would give them priority for being housed in the new development. Ata, who preferred not to give his surname, fears the redevelopment will price out most of the residents and will have “killed the [creative] community there”, even for the few who can afford to come back.

Pasquariello is also concerned the rent would become too expensive to sustain his business. “I can’t just build [a studio] off the shelf,” he says.

people’s living spaces inside the warehouse district
Some people living or working in the warehouse fear it will mean a radical rethink of their careers. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

For Strongarm, losing her home in the warehouse might mean leaving the UK. “I think we would leave London, if not the UK entirely. I don’t think there’s any way we’ll be able to sustain the life we have now and so it would be a radical rethinking of our careers and our livelihoods,” she says. “We’re not against development, we understand the need, but if these areas are going to be developed, which they are, residents should have a say.”

A Haringey council spokesperson said: “We are aware of and fully appreciate the concerns expressed about this application. We are currently undertaking formal consultation on the proposals and would urge anyone with views to submit these, so their voice is heard.

“Our planning policy seeks to secure a long-term sustainable future for warehouse and creative living and to ensure the unique characteristics of this type of accommodation are provided in new warehouse living developments.”

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