Brixton Market has been transformed over the past two years. The old Granville Arcade was full of empty units with an air of dereliction and neglect about it. Today, renamed Brixton Village, it is a thriving hub of micro-businesses bustling with customers all spending their money in our town centre. The Observer described Brixton Village as ‘the most exciting food scene in London’, and it’s brought real regeneration to the area with new businesses, jobs, customers and investment coming to Brixton.
How astonishing, then, that the Tory Prime Minister David Cameron should choose an aspect of this fantastically successful example of local, urban regeneration as the target for a politically-inspired attack this week. Speaking at the launch of the Tory local government campaign in Derbyshire, Mr Cameron criticised Lambeth for ‘wasting’ money that’s transformed the town centre. The particular object of his scorn was the fox and cherries sculpture that forms part of the regeneration scheme. But the value of the investment that’s come to Brixton as a result of the overall scheme is many, many times more than the total cost spent in helping it happen. What a shame the Prime Minister has chosen to play party political games rather than recognise and celebrate the fact that Lambeth Council, working with local entrepreneurs and the market owners, has achieved a prize that’s so far eluded his government by creating the environment for economic growth.
It may be, of course, that some researcher in Conservative Central Office came up with the idea to attack the sculpture in Brixton Market and the Prime Minister made his speech without finding out what’s really going on. So I’ve written to the Mr Cameron and invited him to come down to visit Brixton Village with me. I’ll happily buy him lunch at one of the many exciting micro-restaurants he’ll find there. And I’ll pay in Brixton Pounds (the B£20 note features the fox and cherries sculpture on the reverse) so he can see how a community and its council can come together to promote civic pride and local business in a way that’s truly transformative. It’ll be interesting to see if he accepts my invitation. I’ll be sure to let you know.