Highgate craftsmen ‘will lose livelihoods’ if workshops are demolished for luxury housing

Craftsmen and creative business owners fear they will lose their livelihoods if their workshops are demolished and turned into luxury housing.

More than 30 people who use outbuildings behind landmark furniture shop Richardson’s of Highgate have warned that the “life and soul” of their community will perish under proposed redevelopment plans for the closed store in Archway Road.

Those who use the 17 workshops in The Yard include a painter, sculptor, carpenter and yoga teachers. Some have worked out of the units for up to 30 years.

They have united to launch a campaign and petition against demolishing the workshops, which form part of early plans to build 25 new homes and a supermarket.

Jo Davies, 56, has owned one of the outbuildings for 10 years. She uses it to paint to de-stress after a hard day’s work as a midwife.

“It’s what keeps me together,” said Ms Davies, of Muswell Hill. “There’s a really nice community here and it feels like we haven’t been considered at all. Everybody here would be evicted.

“People don’t realise that some people would be forced into early retirement, because they would never be able to afford anything else in Highgate now.” Others affected include a man who uses one of the workshops to treat clients with serious health and mental problems, such as rape survivors and Parkinson’s Disease sufferers.

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Campaign leader Herminio Martinez, 85, of Cromwell Avenue, has bought crafts from several of the businesses based behind the store for many years.

He wrote in a letter to Haringey Council: “In a sense, it is a unique spot for artistic and craft-skilled people. This is worth preserving.”

Richardson’s closed earlier this year after decades in business.

It has since been bought up by property developer Archway Apartments Ltd, which has so far held two consultation meetings with residents to discuss the early proposals. Workshop owners are urging it to reconsider the plans.

They said they would welcome the redevelopment of the workshops to provide a more attractive space for the craftsmen.

Highgate councillor Bob Hare said: “These businesses are part of the life and soul of this part of Archway Road. Small businesses need space to get going.”

A spokesman for Archway Apartments said: “Archway Apartments Ltd understands the concerns of the current workshop unit tenants and has offered the current occupants alternative workshop space to rent elsewhere in London, if suitable. We are also considering using part of the basement area to provide affordable workshop units.”

View the petition online.