Ritzy becomes focus of gentrification debate

The Ritzy cinema, Brixton

Brixton residents have raised concerns about the gentrification of the area, at a local neighbourhood planning meeting.

At the meeting, held in a packed room at the Brixton Community Base on Talma Road, residents told Lambeth Council cabinet member Cllr Lib Peck that they had seen the area change rapidly, and were concerned about the effect of this on marginalised groups.

“I’ve lived in Lambeth a long time, and there is a sense that the community is changing around us,” one resident said. “A large number of people feel sidelined. They see the changes but they are not part of it. Who will speak for them?”

A lively discussion was sparked when one resident said the decision to allow the Ritzy Cinema’s bar to use some of the space in the centre of Windrush Square as a summertime outdoor seating area was a sign of the problem.

“Why has the Ritzy been given that position?” she said. “It’s a public space that the community worked hard for, and suddenly we see the Ritzy using it to make money. There are a lot of people round here who can’t afford Ritzy prices and are being pushed out of the space. Where is the community cohesion?”

Several Twitter users disagreed, saying that the outdoor seating created a good atmosphere and did not take up too much of the square.

At the meeting some residents criticised Lambeth Council’s approach to local planning. “It is just following the money,” one said. “Property developers have got money and are prepared to put it in, and the council allows it even if it’s not what local people want.”

However, Cllr Peck said she was keen to listen to residents’ wishes. “I can’t promise a smooth ride but I’m trying to say there is a real commitment to try and work as fully with the community as possible,” she said.

“Gone are the days of us sitting in the town hall and being able to present plans for a local area and assume they will be passed. If we tried that, we’d never get past the starting point.

“We are keen to use the expertise, commitment and passion in this room to look at neighbourhood plans so it feels like something that community groups can buy into.”

Ron Hollis, chair of the Lambeth tenants’ council, said the council’s approach was improving. “There have been changes, and at the top of the council we have some very good people who thoroughly believe in what they say about listening to communities,” he said. “But there are still some officers who see local residents as a pain and an intrusion, and would rather go back to the 1960s, when the council controlled everything.”

The meeting was arranged to discuss putting together a local neighbourhood plan for the area, through which residents could influence the council’s planning decisions. No formal decisions were taken, but it was agreed that the issue was a priority.

Unfortunately Brixton Blog was unable to attend the beginning of the meeting, so any attendees who would like to add more information can do so in the comments section below or by emailing newsdesk@brixtonblog.com.

UPDATE: A debate about Ritzy and Windrush Square has been going on at Urban 75 for the past year – check it out here




  1. I would much rather that the Ritzy use the space than the so called marginalized locals who used to us it to get drunk, piss ,intimidate, spit, deal drugs and swear,at the cinema and other passers by. Thye probably thinm this is nimral behaviour, but I and my family did not like it, and I know many others did not also. If they are intimidated by Ritzy into not doing those things then Brixton as indeed moved on for the better. The square used to be awful, it is now much better, and the encroachment of the Ritzy and its far more civilized clientelle have definitely made the are more pleasant. However Lambeth score poorly in maintaining the square; most of the lights that were very expensive to install no longer work, the road crossing area has pitted undr the paving cobles and been filled in cheaply with tarmac; very poor upkeep. Shame on on your Lambeth Council

  2. This isn’t really about the Ritzy seating – it’s about the wider changes that have been happening in Brixton over the course of years, the Ritzy seating being one of the symptoms.

    I used to sit in the Square to meet mates/girlfriends, to drink a few cans before going out somewhere; there was preachers, domino players, drinkers (the Tate Gardens Drinking Advisory Group!), weed smokers, people listening to radios, whatever – I just thought it was a general mix of people and another piece of Brixton. I know that might have intimdated *some* people, but we live in a city after all.

    When the benches and walls were removed a few years ago, a lot of seating was lost. There’s a few of those new chairs, but they’re just in twos and threes. The intention with the revamped square was to ‘design out’ perceived anti-social behaviour.

    I actually don’t think the seating itself is a massive problem, given that you still get a mix of people congregating there – there’s just less opportunity for a mix of people to enjoy the square. More benches/chairs would solve the problem in an instant.

    This debate started because someone at the residents meeting claimed the Ritzy was ‘pushing out’ the community. I think you can understand how some long-standing residents (who probably don’t frequent the Ritzy, or Brixton Village) have come to this point of view given the changes to the square. They’ve probably also noticed the changes to the market/Granville Arcade, and the fact they are full of young kids with cameras, treating the place like a tourist destination then going to do their shopping in Sainsburys. They may have family/friends who can’t afford to live here any more and resent the changes they can see. The Ritzy seating is a symptom of this.

    There’s been a debate about this going on for the past year at http://www.urban75.net/forums/threads/should-windrush-square-be-renamed-ritzy-square.277202/

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