Hackney Council has announced a tightening up of lockdown enforcement around Broadway Market following widespread alarm at crowds in the area over the weekend.
Local police were called multiple times to enforce social distancing, with community safety chief Cllr Caroline Selman also flagging the market up for further patrols.
Residents and councillors expressed their disbelief at the number of people in the area over the weekend after pictures were posted on social media, with Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville characterising scenes of the sale and purchase of takeaway alcohol as non-essential.
Now the Town Hall will be suspending parking, as well as closing Broadway Market itself to through traffic, with additional police and council officers to be deployed to advise people and businesses on following the rules.
Louise Brewood, former chair of the Broadway Market Traders’ and Residents’ Association, said: “We got a message from an elderly couple, both in ill health and one having cancer treatment, who had to organise someone to pick them up a newspaper, as at that time on Saturday it was too many people and no space.
“My neighbour took her two-year-old daughter to the shops, got to the top of the road, and decided that they just could not safely get there.
“The council were trying to do their best, but as the lockdown has progressed, to me it feels like the general public that attend the market that are not direct local residents and live round here, it’s like an 18th-century fashion parade. All they’re missing is the big fans.
“Many small and micro market traders have been in touch expressing anxiety and fear over the vast numbers on the street, and anger caused by poor management has jeopardised the future of the market’s return.
“The questions for businesses are, ‘Are you trading to squeeze as much money as you can in disregard for life, or are you trying to survive and make a little bit extra to look after your staff to keep your business afloat? Are you supplying produce for people to take home?”
Let me be clear selling or buying takeaway alcohol or similar is not essential during lockdown, and I'm sure not what the Government had in mind went it made it easier for premises to offer 'takeaway'. I was sent & saw the scenes in Broadway Market & on all fronts unacceptable.— Mayor of Hackney (@mayorofhackney) April 26, 2020
Brewood, who is also chair of London Fields Safer Neighbourhood Panel, added that around 100 people, including local key workers and business owners, had been in touch with her expressing concerns and calling on the Town Hall for further signage to remind people not to be in the market unless on an essential journey.
The former trader held up the fish and butchers’ shops and CostCutters on the street as “excellent examples” of best practice, for checking their queues and making sure there was space for people to walk by safely, while criticising central government for not closing loopholes in its initial guidance and giving clearer powers to local authorities and the police.
She also argues that businesses selling takeaway alcohol do not need to do so to survive, pointing to the council and central government grant system and saying that anyone whose business relies on alcohol for the most part will not have goods which can be wasted, as in the case of fresh food.
Brewood added: “I appreciate the fear and anxiety of businesses. I’ve got a son who’ll probably not be getting back to work, I’m dealing with all my neighbours who can’t work.
“My goal here is for local people can safely get to the shops. It needs to be looked at seriously as a multi-agency approach, just like they did with parks, and looked at by the licensing authority, as many are doing things they shouldn’t do.”
The closure of the street market was announced at the end of last month, with the last one held on the 21 March.
The government relaxed planning rules on 17 March to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways, with serving of booze continuing to be subject to usual licensing rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson used his first press conference on returning to office after three weeks’ of illness to stress the importance of continuing to observe distancing rules during the lockdown, warning of the danger of a second spike in cases.
Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville said: “We know that there are concerns about social distancing in some parts of the borough and we’re doing all we can to ensure people adhere to the guidance.
“People must continue to respect the guidance by only going out once a day for exercise and shopping for basic necessities like food and medicine as infrequently as possible, keeping at least 2m away from others. This, as we all know, is critical to slowing the spread of coronavirus.
“At Broadway Market, we’ve closed the street market, but the government is allowing some businesses to operate as takeaways. Across the borough, we’re continuing to work closely with the police to monitor areas where social distancing is an issue and deploy officers where they are needed.
“We’re also doing all we can to keep our parks open because we know how important they are for our residents, particularly those without gardens, and have installed hundreds of banners and stencils to remind people of the government’s guidance.”