‘Worried and depressed’: Traders at Ridley Road Shopping Village call for better communication as council prepares to take over the lease

Ridley Road shopper Dave Owen with campaigner Tamara Stoll and Cllr Zoë Garbett. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Anxious traders at a popular Hackney market say they desperately need more information about their futures.

Tenants based at the Ridley Road Shopping Village shared their concerns after being served with a notice to quit their shops by 20 August.

They are awaiting new paperwork from Hackney Council, which is taking over the management of the building, and are calling for better communication.

In January, the council said it was taking on a 15-year lease of the shopping village, at an initial rent of £306,000 a year, and announced plans to give it a facelift.

It said the makeover would help “unlock” the market as part of its £1m investment in the street.

However, shopping village tenants say they haven’t been given enough information about what will happen to their businesses, or where they will store their stock later this month.

Rents vary depending on the size of a shop, but tenants can pay up to £1,200 a month for a shop fronting onto the street.

One trader said: “I do not know if I can keep the shop. I have been buying stock but I don’t know if I’ll have a shop in a few weeks. I want to know where I will take my stock.

“This is the oldest market, people travel to come here from all over London. It was packed before the pandemic.”

Another said the uncertainty was having “a big impact and I’m worried and depressed”. They are concerned about their shop’s future after the notice to quit arrived from landlord Larochette Real Estate Inc.

Tamara Stoll from Save Ridley Road said traders were told they would get a new agreement from Hackney Council.

Ward councillor Zoë Garbett said: “They were promised that they would move internally. People do not know whether to pack up stock.”

When contacted by the Citizen, the landlords said they have spoken to tenants and will be on hand next week to discuss what happens next.

A council spokesman said: “Our decision to take over the management of Ridley Road Shopping Village was made specifically to give security to the traders based there after the uncertainty caused by ongoing risk of redevelopment when it was under private ownership.

“We would therefore like to reiterate our offer that, once our lease is agreed, all traders will be guaranteed a similar-sized space in the refurbished market under the council’s ownership, and that they can continue trading from the shopping village while this refurbishment takes place.”

The spokesman said it will make sure traders know what is going on, adding: “We appreciate the need to ensure traders are kept informed while these changes take place, and we have recently employed two dedicated market officers for Ridley Road who will continue discussions with these businesses to ensure they are not negatively impacted.”

Traders reported a drop in takings during the pandemic and said business has not recovered.

Pre-pandemic, the Ridley Road attracted 4.2 million visits a year, according to council figures.

A 2020 planning application to turn the shopping village 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.

Plans include better toilets and increased storage space for traders, a cafe, and renovations of the building, which the council said “is in very poor condition and suffers from design defects”.

The agreement means the landlord will pick up the tab for the work, which will include replacing windows, new paint, and changes to the layout to discourage anti-social behaviour.

Hackney Council estimates that between 16 to 18 traders will return to their shops and it hopes new traders will fill the other spaces.

It is understood that no work will commence on 20 August, and that in the meantime traders will continue to operate as they are now, and remain tenants of Rainbow Properties/Larochette.