May 20 2013 Latest news:
Else Kvist, Reporter
Friday, February 22, 2013
Could Forest Gate be turning into the new ‘hip Hoxton’ or Stoke Newington?
It might seem far-fetched, but a new café, named CoffeE7 after the area’s postcode, and a local estate agent are seeing young families from so-called ‘trendy’ areas heading eastwards to settle in the neighbourhood.
CoffeE7 is one of two fashionable new cafés changing the face of Woodgrange Road, which is lined with fast-food takeways and betting shops.
As you step inside among its pastel-coloured walls and recycled retrostyle furniture you sense a community vibe, with a small play area for children and an arts and events space at the rear.
The community-driven vegetarian café, which opened in January, was the brainchild of people living in what is known as Forest Gate village around Wanstead Flats. Four of the residents share the leasehold.
One of them, Mic Clarke, 53, who has lived in nearby Hampton Road for 25 years, said they were spurred on by the Saturday market, which started last summer, and will soon also put out stalls on Fridays.
Mic said: “There was no great community café in the area with a good atmosphere for discerning coffee drinkers, and we considered whether there was a gap in the market.
“There has always been a sort of country club around Wanstead flats, who are very proud of Forest Gate, but who struggled to find an identity, which along with the market we are trying to express.”
Mic believes the Obsidian project for Forest Gate, aimed at regenerating the area on the back of Crossrail’s arrival, faltered because the high- rise housing and retail units planned were not in keeping with the area’s low-rise Victorian style.
As they set about transforming a former Chinese takeaway, New Noodle Way, another café, Kaffeine, opened up opposite.
Mic’s daughter Hettie Clarke, who manages the café, does not view them as competition and thinks they are helping change the area too.
She said: “They serve meat and it’s a smaller space, so it’s a different clientele.”
CoffeE7 is already popular with the Forest Gate Women’s Institute and a knitting club, Knit and Natter, who meet inside.
But alongside the students, schoolchildren, professionals and pensioners who drop in, staff are noticing people coming in on their way to check out properties.
Hettie said: “Someone came into the café and said it’s like being in Hoxton. I’m not sure it was meant as a compliment, but we took it as one.”
At nearby Wilkinson Estate Agents, more than 50 per cent of new people registering live in Hackney and Stoke Newington.
Senior negotiator William Bond said: “It’s unprecedented. It’s people in their mid-20s to 30s looking to start a family and finding they cannot even afford a one-bedroom flat where they live.
“It’s affordability, the green around Wanstead Flats, good transport links and good nurseries and primary schools, attracting people.
“But what we really need is a good secondary school to stop people moving to places like Wanstead later.
“The council is trying to improve the high street now, which is also helping.
“For too long it allowed too many fried chicken and betting shops to open.”
William and Mic believe more independent shops, such as arts and craft shops, will help Woodgrange Road become more like Wanstead High Street, which is what they say residents are hoping for.