Campaigners celebrate as council vows to ‘breathe new life’ into Ridley Road with revamp of shopping village

A Save Ridley Road banner on the front of the shopping village in 2020

An indoor shopping village on Ridley Road will get a facelift as part of plans to “breathe life back” into the historic outdoor market on the same street.

Hackney Council is taking on the 15-year lease of the indoor market and said its plans to modernise it will help Ridley Road market, which in pre-pandemic times attracted millions of visitors a year.

Mayor Philip Glanville said proposals include transforming the basement area and providing refrigeration, extra storage and toilets for the traders from the popular Dalston market.

He said: “What we’re unlocking here is space for market traders, unlocking the shopping village, and crucial access to toilets for traders.”

He explained that opening hours for toilets in Bradbury Mews were extended so traders could use them but providing toilets inside the market building will be convenient.

Cllr Guy Nicholson, cabinet member for regeneration, business and markets, said it was the only London market to keep trading six days a week during the pandemic and was a lifeline for residents getting fresh food in lockdown.

He said: “It managed and maintained extraordinary levels of custom for the market traders of Ridley Road throughout the pandemic.”

Ridley Road Shopping Village. Photograph: Google

Hackney is also the first borough to ensure that all the fruit and vegetable  traders are signed up to the Alexandra Rose charity.

It means that low-income families had vouchers to buy fresh food throughout the pandemic, and over £40,000 was spent.

The council plans to offer traders permanent space inside the building so they can “graduate from a stall to a building”.

It said the shopping village had suffered from low levels of occupancy for some time and became a “magnet for crime, drug-dealing and anti-social behaviour”.

The council report said this included crimes involving weapons and “a significant increase in volume of aggressive and/or threatening behaviour towards council officers, the police and the wider public”.

It is hoped the changes to the building will help design out anti-social behaviour and crime.

The council report said the deal to lease the building was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to help market traders grow their businesses into low-cost permanent premises”.

Mayor Glanville (third from left) and planning boss Cllr Guy Nicholson (fifth from right) celebrate the start of improvement work on the market last October. Photograph: Hackney Council / Twitter

A 2020 planning application to turn the building into five luxury flats, offices and stalls for 22 traders was met with public opposition.

The plans were withdrawn and the owner is working with the council to improve the indoor market.

The Town Hall’s markets team will be there every day and the council hopes the visible management will help “reduce criminality and make Ridley Road safer and more attractive to customers”/

Traders from the Save Ridley Road campaign have welcomed the move.

Danny Hayward said: “We’re delighted about this decision that comes from years of collective campaigning to prevent the building’s redevelopment.

“We now hope to see existing traders on the ground floor involved in every stage of the planning process as Hackney Council takes over the building’s management.

“There’s a lot that still needs to be made clear here, but we view this as a victory for Save Ridley Road and anti-gentrification campaigners across Hackney.”

The deal includes six months’ free rent at the beginning of the contract and the council will pay £306,000 a year, with a rent review after four years.

There is a risk that the market could fail if it does not attract enough traders or there is an economic crash, the council report warns.

But Peter Burt, the council’s senior asset management adviser, wrote: “In the last few years, the demand for this type of trading opportunity has been buoyant and the risk of this [failure] occurring is assessed as very low.”

The cabinet approved the 15-year lease at its meeting on 24 January.