The one million pound Whitechapel Market rejuvenation project has started this week.
The improvements are part of the multi-million pound project: “High Street 2012,” aiming to transform the area for the increased number of visitors that are expected to flood the country for the Olympics.
The works will make the area safer and more attractive to shoppers which, the council hopes, will ultimately boost the performance of existing businesses.
The improvement includes renovation of the roads and pavements, installation of new lighting, new bin storage areas, updated electricity supplies and water provisions for stallholders.
The Tower Hamlets council have said disruption to market traders will be minimal. Yet to allow for the works to take place, small sections of the market will be moved to the other side of Whitechapel Road for short periods.
Traders will be able to choose between transferring for the duration of the works that are taking place or waiving their pitch for that period.
Tower Hamlets council has consulted Whitechapel Market traders who helped to shape the improvement plans.
However stallholders and locals seem to have mixed feelings about the market improvements.
Patrick Kelly, 55, from Stepney, who runs a flower stall with his father outside Whitechapel Station, thinks the works will not have any positive effect on the area: “I don’t think I’m too excited about this. I don’t see what jazzing up the area is going to change for locals.”
He continued: ”The only people that’ll benefit are hotel and restaurant owners but stall owners won’t get more customers because the disruptions to traffic won’t let people get close to the area.”
Tejas Patel, 24, from Forest Gate, a sales assistant at Pound Busters store, thinks that the work should have taken place a while ago, but is happy about the improvements. “Now the area is getting improved because of the Olympic Games, but the truth is we needed them done ages ago. It just looks so unpleasant for the eye. It’s great they are doing these works here now – and we can expect more visitors in the area and hopefully more customers in our stores as well.”
Husna Begum, 20, from Bethnal Green, a sales assistant at a local pharmacy, says the improvements will result in too standardised stalls. “I’ve heard that stalls will have very limited space as a result of these works. It’s fine for electronics stalls that face customers, but what about vegetable stalls? They’ll only fit 2 people in one stall. If there’s one seller, then only one customer can go inside. If I have to wait for 5 minutes before I can get my vegetables, I’m just going to go to the nearest shop instead. I think these works are a bad idea.”
However a representative of Tower Hamlets Council, Lara Cerroni has responded to such comments saying: “All of the pitches will be larger than those outlined in the traders’ licences.”
The works will be completed by April 2012.