Independent artists in Westbourne Park claim studio rent increase could force them out

Artists claim Great Western Studios are driving them out with rent hikes Pic credit: Ada

Artists claim Great Western Studios are driving them out with rent hikes Pic credit: Adam Thomas - Credit: Archant

Independent artists working from subsidised studios in Westbourne Park claim that a rent increase could force them out in favour of businesses that will pay top rates.

The tenants based in Great Western Studios (GWS) in Alfred Road, say they are being “cleansed” from one of the last studios in Westminster to offer low rents after they were told it would go up by 14 per cent.

They currently pay £17.50 per square foot but this will rise to £20.

Jennifer Nadel, former Green Party parliamentary candidate for Westminster North said the “handful of artists” left, were too frightened to speak out for fear of reprisal.

She said: “I feel real artists are being cleansed from the building that is meant to house and encourage them. Profit is being put before creativity.”

GWS was built in agreement with Westminster Council to of-fer subsidised rent to painters, sculptors and other artists, after its previous studio was demolished to make way for Crossrail.

The council gave GWS £2mil-lion in loans and a £1m grant in 2009 to be repaid in five years, on condition of them offering the subsidised rents. The money has since been paid back with interest.

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Ms Nadel added: “Westminster Council allowed this to happen. It should have protected the rights of artists long term but instead has let down the people who depend on it by not imposing better conditions.”

One artist, who asked to be anonymous, also said they have been given new leases restricting their rights and they face being evicted of they don’t spend enough time in their studios. She also claimed artists that complained had their leases terminated.

Tamara Von Schenk, who makes personalised table mats from her home in Notting Hill, left when retrospective rent hikes were introduced and is currently looking for a new studio.

She said: “We all knew the prices would go up when the new building was built. The smaller artists are slow-ly being driven out.”

Shazia Mirza, director at GWS, said only two rent reviews had been carried out in five years, with artists paying 50 per cent less than “the current market value for the building”.

However she did not say whether the practice of offer-ing reduced rent would end now that the debt to the council had been fully repaid.

She added: “We have a large waiting list of artists and other creative businesses who are keen to benefit form the subsidised rates and who want to be part of the GWS creative environment.”

A spokesman from Westminster Council said: “Great Western Studios has always sought to provide space for the creative industries at highly competitive rents. “The council provided financial assistance in the form of a commercial loan and a grant, alongside substantial private investment from the owners.

“Now in its sixth year of operation, we believe the facility is more vibrant than it has ever been, and supporting more creative businesses than ever before.”