Developer Roger Wratten in talks to sell land after bowing to local pressure over Broadway Market project
A controversial arts centre project in east London by an award-winning architect is likely to be scrapped and the site sold because of local opposition to the gentrification of the East End.
Developer Roger Wratten, the head of property company Market House, has been in talks with developers about selling off the land at 30-34 Broadway Market, Hackney, for private flats.
This follows a sustained campaign in which he has received hate mail, his home village in Kent was leafleted and his mobile number handed out to protesters.
The battle of Broadway Market has come to represent the wider debate on the gentrification of the East End and rising house prices. The sale of the site, which had caught the media's attention, would signal a victory for local campaigners who oppose the development.
RIBA-award winning Amin Taha Architects was appointed in 2002 by Wratten, a former Citibank broker, to draw up plans for a 250-seat community arts centre on the site.
The scheme, which has planning permission from Hackney council, has stalled because protesters had unlawfully occupied the adjacent site, Francesca's Cafe, also owned by Wratten, for three months.
A source close to the project said: "It looks like the people who own the arts centre site will end up selling to a private developer, probably for private flats. The architect has already done feasibility studies for two different developers who want to build flats on the site."
Wratten is also thought to be in talks with the protesters about selling the land to them for flats and a community centre. Arthur Shuter, spokesperson for the protesters, said he had discussed with Wratten the possibility of buying the site.
Shuter said: "Wratten told me he was going to auction the land at numbers 30, 32 ,34 and behind that at 26 and 28 by the end of March. The whole thing is obviously proving too troublesome and things aren't working out as he had planned. We have been talking to developers and other individuals about setting up an ethical funding project to buy the site and develop on it. We are pretty confident it will go ahead."
Francesca's Cafe has become a cause célèbre for campaigners in the area. Cafe-owner Tony Platia had leased his site from Hackney council for 30 years, but was outbid by Wratten in 2001 when the council was forced to sell it and other premises on the street to help clear debts of £72m.