COMMENT: New chain hotel erodes what diversity we have left in Brixton

By Kevin James

Holiday Inn has gained permission to turn central Brixton into a building site for the foreseeable future to build a 118 room hotel above the former Woolworths. This is a bit of a shock for many locals, especially given a lack of consultation with nearby residents and an apparent absence of the usual planning notices.  This is disappointing for a council that sells itself on its “cooperative” approach and community involvement.

Long term residents and political idealists – myself included – will predictably moan that the space could be used for truly affordable social housing (which is severely lacking in Lambeth, and continues to be squeezed) or an extension of our world-famous market housing a variety of small, independent businesses. But we’re realists too. The relentless forces of change, development and redevelopment are inescapable. Whether it’s Granville Arcade filling up with boutique cafes and food shops from 2009, the remodelling of the tube station and high street in the early 2000’s (which brought us Footlocker & Sainburys Local) or the conversion of the Atlantic pub into the Dogstar in 1994, Brixton has always been changing.

Of course a hotel will bring jobs (as any development would) but are they the sort of jobs we want? Holiday Inn had to quickly back out of the Government’s unpaid workfare scheme earlier this year after national protests, and is still suspected of involvement in unpaid labour.

What I object to is actually the homogenisation of Brixton. The Future Brixton Masterplan developed between Lambeth Council and the community in 2009 gave a strong message that residents wanted to retain Brixton’s unique character and diverse range of shops and businesses. Adding another multinational chain further erodes what diversity we have left.

What sort of Brixton do we want? A unique, diverse and interesting place offering something for everyone? Or a UK clone-town high street, indistinguishable from Gloucester, Luton or a Westfield shopping centre? Holiday Inn or not, we are gradually drifting from the former to the latter. I think we need to constantly question proposed developments like this if we value the unique character we currently have here in Brixton.

Residents have started a petition against the hotel, for those interested.

Tony Browne writes about why the Holiday Inn development is good for Brixton




  1. Nigel I don’t really get your point – are you seriously suggesting that the reason people step foot in Brixton is because of Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s, M&S and all the fast food chains? because it makes them feel safe?? and without them people won’t come to Brixton? What are you on about mate? You criticise the article but then go on to say that you want to live in a diverse Brixton. In fact you use the word diverse twice in your closing sentences. I would refer you back to the article where the author states clearly that he objects to the homogenisation of Brixton. So many other areas of London and indeed the whole country are being turned into identikit towns with nothing but the same stores and big brands. Do you really think that the area and the people of Brixton benefit from this Holiday Inn? Have you got some kind of vested interest here? because you come across as nothing but a corporate shill and your talk of ‘diversity’ amongst all this is rather confusing and a little worrying to me.
    And yes Vanessa – are these really the sort of jobs we want? you are the one making assumptions here, so get annoyed all you like. There is no guarantee that jobs will go to local residents and as the article also states Holiday Inn has had a questionable involvement in the unpaid back to work programme.
    Brixton has a unique character and a rebel spirit that will be gradually eroded if these corporations have their way. They will take far more from a community than they will ever put back in. You make out that they have some kind of altruistic reason for being there.

    • Chill out Matthew,
      everyone’s allowed their opinions. Some people, such as Nigel and Vanessa, want regeneration and development. Others, such as yourself, want a stagnant building to stay unused and unprofitable.

      Each to their own, innit?

      • Ha ha! Thanks for the advice Benjamin.
        Yes everyone has their opinions. In fact I don’t want a ‘stagnant’ building to stay unused and unprofitable, not sure how you concluded that from my post, but never mind. Profit can be defined in many ways. The swell of support on this comments page seems a little suspicious to me, however. I would argue that corporate investment doesn’t necessarily translate as regeneration and development, and in fact can change the whole face of the area for the worse. This is the point that I was attempting to make. Let us make no bones about it – the reason Holiday Inn and all the others are in Brixton is to make MONETARY PROFIT.

  2. The question of ‘are these the sort of jobs we want’ is very much an extension of ‘do we want Brixton overrun by faceless corporates?’

    Further to this ,how certain can we be that Holiday Inn’s recruitment policy will be along the lines of giving the jobs to locals? They might simply transfer staff in from other existing Holiday Inns.

    I have mixed feelings about the hotel but there do seem to be huge assumptions being made about job prospects resulting from it

  3. This article makes me really annoyed. ‘Are these the sort of jobs we want?’ – how ridiculous. That sentence is idiotic. Really all jobs are great for the local community. You are quoting one piece of information to back up this negative drivel. Please can we have more balanced writing.

    Are these the sorts of articles we want? NO!

    I am really glad my family and friends will have somewhere to stay nearby and they can spend their hard earned cash in our local shops and businesses. during their trip

  4. Kevin your article makes me mad! Jobs, tourists, investments? Why wouldn’t we want this for Brixton? Furthermore one hotel may lead to more independent diverse hotels starting up. Its because of the Tescos, the Sainsbury’s the M&S’s and fast food places that many people step foot in Brixton. Get rid of these and people won’t come anyway. Like them or loathe them, these big organisations make people feel safe. I want to live in a Brixton that prospers and remains diverse. Your ideas do not provide a credible alternative to a prosperous and diverse Brixton.

  5. Thus is great news. The more generation we get the better. Bringing business to the community. Keep em coming!

  6. Ed… Very well put. What we need here is something to push us forward. No point in the buildings decaying while we wait for a local to come up with the ideas/cash/will to put a viable business in place. This must be good for Brixton.

  7. Well, I’m a long-term resident of Brixton, and presumably qualify as a member of the “we” that you keep on mentioning. And I’m all in favour of the Holiday Inn. As to “the sort of jobs we want”, surely the hotel will create some jobs, whether or not they are the sort you approve of.

    A hotel in Brixton will generate customers for local restaurants and bars. It will a handy place to stay for friends and family of Brixton people coming from all over the world. Also, the Black Heritage Centre will be of national, if not international significance, and so the hotel can help make the BHC more of success by providing convenient nearby lodging.

  8. Round 2 of the excellent gentrification debate? Fingers crossed…

    How is Brixton’s diversity anything other than enhanced by an outfit such as Holiday Inn coming to town?

    By definition the mark of diversity is variation and that, were we to artificially – and arbitrarily – aim for a local economy comprised entirely of independent enterprise, our economy would technically be homogeneous.

    As for consultation – FFS! – I’ve no idea whether this planning application was handled in the normal fashion but have no reason to doubt otherwise. If, however, the council did not fulfil its statutory obligations, you’ll be able to unpick the decision so fill your boots:

    Finally, there is nothing unique about derelict buildings – Gloucester, Luton and the ever-expanding Westfield all have empty premises that they’d happily see occupied by any sustainable enterprise, be they wonderfully independent or monstrously multi-national.

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