Cor blimey, there have been some hoary old class cliches flying around in the comments threads lately - it's like a war's broken out between the westside Morlocks and the eastside Eloi. We've also learned that:
- City workers just want somewhere to stash their Bentleys during the week.
- Bookies attract the 'wrong' sort, that 'we' don't want around here.
- All mummies are yummy and do nothing all day but fret over the quality of sun dried tomatoes on offer locally.
- The East London Line is like the Railroad Companies of the old west, bringing civilisation to the frontiers of London - but at what price?!
There are a few consistent strands of criticism, running throughout:
1. It's all a lie perpetrated by property-speculating fantasists, desperate to talk up the area.
Admittedly, we don't get these comments so often these days, but since we began writing in February, new cafes have opened, the Wickham's been revamped, Tesco's moved in, several major new apartment developments have begun and a deli's been announced. That alone would constitute significant regeneration, but there's plenty of other stuff bubbling under at the moment too, from businesses looking to set-up shop in the area, to developers eyeing local sites.
On this basis, we reject Gary's assertion that we should all be grateful that a bookie has deigned to show an interest in the area.
2. Regeneration means the destruction of everything that Brockley people hold dear
We don't get this argument. There are some things we all seem to hold dear about Brockley. Leafy streets, attractive housing, good transport, cherished institutions like Moonbows, lively arts scene, nice parks and a sense of community. None of that is under threat.
What is under threat are the semi-functional high-street and dysfunctional Brockley Cross district (complete with empty properties that blight the west side).
Brockley is a highly diverse area, home to a mix of rich and poor, black and white. If any of these communities were threatened with being marginalised, then that would, in our view, be the "wrong" kind of regeneration. But we don't see the risk of that happening. People who point to East Dulwich or Greenwich (which are both lovely) and worry that Brockley could soon end up gentrified like them overlook the fact that they have always been middle-class enclaves. Brockley can expect to be charmingly rough-around-the-edges for a long time to come.
Even the fried chicken shops and bookies can probably look forward to long and happy lives(unlike their customers).
3. Regeneration means hordes of braying financiers descending on Brockley, buying up Moonbow Jakes with their bonuses and selling it to Starbucks for twice the price.
The "sense of community" argument seems a particularly selfish one and seems to boil down to "they are not like us, therefore we don't want them." But the people who are moving in to the area are generally young, aspirational and have moved to the area because they're attracted by the same kinds of things that drew people here in the past. They just happen to work in financial services, like a growing proportion of London's population.
If they were chino, deck-shoe and Fat Face-wearing wallies, they'd move to Fulham, giving them easy access to the Home Counties at the weekend.
If you live in zone 2 London, within easy reach of two of the most important financial districts on earth, then having a few people in financial services as your neighbours seems to be a risk you have to accept.
For the record, Brockley Central doesn't work in the City, but 'some of our best friends' are bankers. They're normal people, who like "community" stuff too.
4. It's middle class hypocrisy to move in to an area because it's cheap and then hope for it to become nice as well
This argument is firstly based on the flawed assumption that people who want regeneration are all newcomers who could just as easily move to Blackheath if they wanted that kind of thing. But many who want change have lived here for years, have no prospect of moving or are renting and therefore have no financial stake in regeneration.
But even discounting that, the argument seems more profoundly flawed: it suggests the "victims" of regeneration are those who don't live here and might, at some point in the future, be priced out of the area. We don't think it's hypocritical for people who do live here to want to see their area improve at the expense of those who don't live here but might want to at some point.
If, in years to come, Brockley becomes impossibly desirable and expensive, our descendants will have to colonise some other part of London - like Plumstead. And so it goes...