Community campaigns from across London are joining forces to plan their resistance to the controversial redevelopment of Ridley Road Shopping Village.
At a meeting held at the Ridley Road Market Bar, representatives from the campaign to protect the Latin Village market in Seven Sisters told listeners of the benefits of submitting a community plan as a “viable alternative”.
Hackney Council takes applications for neighbourhood plans, which allow communities to have a more direct voice over development in their area by having more of a say in planning policy.
A spokesperson for the 16-year-old Save Latin Village campaign said: “I’m a really firm believer that when the institutions around you aren’t protecting you, especially BAME people, that we need to take the power into our own hands.
“Community resistance like this is one of the most special things that we can have, and it gives us a real alternative to fight these greedy developers and the capitalism that is destroying everyone’s lives.”
Kieran Kirkwood of Save Ridley Road added: “We want to take a knowledge from Save Latin Village, so a community plan can happen. We do have a lot of power, and you just have to seize it. Put a little bit of work in and it comes together.”
Activists came together in the Ridley Road Market Bar this week to discuss what they wanted to see in the shopping village building going forward, with in-house childcare or youth services both put forward.
An application has also been put forward for the shopping village to be made an asset of community value (ACV), under which the community would then be able to offer to the purchase the building from Rainbow Properties, with a council decision expected on the application in December.
Last year all traders on the ground floor of the shopping village were given two weeks’ notice to leave, provoking widespread community outrage, deputations to the council and marches on the developers’ offices.
Since then, a minimum of three years’ occupation has been secured for the traders “subject to development”, according to local campaigner Bill Parry-Davies, who informed the crowd that all traders are to receive double the statutory amount of compensation and have the right to return if development is to proceed.
Parry-Davies said: “Some form of development or refurbishment is inevitable. The place has been run down to ruin, and is possibly dangerous. So the thing that’s important is to make sure in the planning application that there are small affordable units for the traders and storage for the street market traders who have been using the basement for storage of their stock. That storage is essential to the street market.
“Last month, new amended plans were put to the council. Changes have been made to the plans that are a direct result of the objections that the community has made to the planning application, which was to convert everything into luxury offices and have five luxury flats on a new third floor.
“There are still going to be some flats in the amended application, but space for small affordable units on ground floor has been increased and storage space in basement has also been increased.
“I’m not saying these increases are sufficient to ensure sustainability of street market, and I’m not saying that the new small retail units that they are putting on the ground floor will be affordable, but it is progress, and shows it is important to engage in these applications and make your views firmly known to the council.”
However, Parry-Davies pointed out that the building’s owners last month gave 48 hours’ notice that they would lock up the building’s storage units, with traders on rolling licences of six months which still leave them in a precarious position.
There are also questions over how affordable the new units would be, making it hard for traders to exercise their right to return.
The Dalston campaigner went on to call for the council to undertake an equalities impact assessment for the shopping village, which would look at how ethnic minority groups would be affected by the plans.
Hackney Council has confirmed that the shopping village’s development could affect up to 28 street market pitches, with the traders impacted to be provided with alternative pitches as close as possible to their existing one and receiving remuneration from Rainbow Properties.
On being quizzed on the merits of the submission of a community plan, Dalston councillor Peter Snell pledged that he would “lead as a local councillor in making sure that whatever happens in this area involves and is led by the community”.
Cllr Snell added: “The council must develop a strategy, as Hackney and Dalston succeeds, to find ways of supporting those that have contributed and will continue to contribute to Dalston in the future.
“On the community plan, it’s always a question of knowing how to get maximum community engagement with any new development.
“There is a commitment from the top to defend Ridley as a traditional market. It remains to be proved whether an adversarial approach is likely to get the best deal for the community, or if they work through me and my fellow councillors to make sure that they are properly listened to.”
The Labour councillor emphasised that Rainbow would be “out of their heads” not to engage with the traders already present in the building, emphasising that it was “crucial” for the area for the shopping village to remain as a commercial centre, with the council set on negotiating “the maximum amount of affordable workspace”.
Snell sounded a note of caution on the application to set the building up as an ACV, pointing out that the first thing developers would do would be to appeal the application, saying: “You’ve got to be really geared up to defend that position.”
Danny Hayward of the London Renters Union addressed listeners outside the event. As he spoke, one trader shouted, ‘They’re trying to take away our assets’, as council market team officers approached campaigners to make the point that the shopping village and the external market were distinct entities.
Hayward said: “Ridley Road is under threat. Developers are swooping in, buying up the buildings, coming up with plans for things that could happen here that don’t have anything to do with us, people who work, trade, socialise and shop here now.
“The community campaign that has come together is really strong. We’ve got to make sure that any change that takes place in Ridley Road in the coming months and years is in the interests of the people who are here at the moment and want to stay.”
The campaign event also made sure to highlight discontent brewing among traders on the street market, who are currently being consulted on a change in its regulation and fees by Hackney Council, which says it is attempting to tackle a rise in over £100k of waste and maintenance costs for Ridley Road.
Under the new fee structure, the Town Hall would apply a 12 per cent increase to feed for trading at Ridley Road, rising to 14 per cent for fruit and veg and street food traders, with fees for traders in zone 3 of the market set to go down by 14 per cent.
The council has pointed out that trader fees have not changed or risen with inflation at Ridley Road since 2016.
Meanwhile the new regulations would see traders having to be working personally in the market for more than half the day, clocking in and out at the beginning and end of each day, and removing their goods from the market by 7.30pm.
Trader John Evans said: “We’ve seen lots of comings and goings in the past down the market, but this is beyond the pale. Several of the traders have given up already because of the pressure. I won’t do that, I’ll never do that.
“But we’re asking ourselves, what is behind all this? There appears to be an agenda against us, and we can’t fathom what it’s all about.
“They’re trying hard to get rid of people it appears, and we don’t know why.”
Parry-Davies added: “The shit is about to hit the fan bigtime in the street market. The reason for that is that the council is now introducing new regulations governing the activities of the street market traders, or as one trader said, 101 ways to lose your licence.
“Traders get up at 2 or 3am to get down to Spitalfields to get stock. Then they have to hang around till 4 or 5am to get stuff that is the bargain, where they’re really going to make their money. They would then have to be in the market by 830am, clock in at 9am, work personally in the market for 51 per cent of the day, then get stuff out of market by 7pm.
“I’m a solicitor, not a mathematician, but that’s a 16-hour day. It is totally ridiculous to expect people to work 16 hours day or face criminal sanctions and a loss of their licence, but that is what these new regulations propose.”
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has made assurances in the past that Ridley Road Market is “here to stay” following £1.5m of joint investment into the market from Hackney Council and the Mayor of London at the end of last year.
Aled Richards, Hackney Council Director of Public Realm, said: “We’re committed to protecting the unique character of Ridley Road Market, and ensuring it continues to meet local people’s needs. After a lot of hard work by the council and traders, we increased trader occupancy rates by three per cent last year.
“The proposals we are consulting on are aimed at making sure that Ridley Road – and all our markets – fund themselves so they can continue to grow and thrive.
“We are proposing a small fee increase of between £2 and £3 per day for most weekly traders to cover these increased costs, and a decrease in charges for traders in zone 3 of the market, making it the cheapest six-day-a-week market in London.
“We’re also proposing updated terms and conditions for stalls at all Hackney markets, which have been developed with local traders. These cover changes to food hygiene and health and safety legislation; the use of single use plastics; and the logistics of operating a market stall. There is no term or condition in the licence that enables the council to revoke a street trading licence to enable private development.
“We value the views of all of our traders and encourage them to take part in the consultations.”