Stallholders have given a mixed welcome to plans to spend £11m on regenerating Whitechapel High Street market in a bid to attract tourists and boost the local economy during the Olympic Games.
Tower Hamlets Council has announced that it will re-vamp Whitechapel High Street along with neighbouring markets, which are estimated to generate £21 million towards the local economy each year, in an effort to upgrade the area.
The borough’s Mayor, Lutfur Rahman, said he wants to use the Olympics to ‘leverage investment’ to help improve Whitechapel Market. The scheme has also been designed to provide a safer and more attractive public space. Development to improve the pavements, shop frontages and public spaces are currently underway.
New bin storage areas will be installed along with new lighting, improved electricity supplies and provision of water for the stall holders.
EastLond0nLines went to the market to talk to traders about the planned boost. Some welcomed the plans, but others doubted whether it would bring lasting benefits.
Clothes stall owner Solaman Howlard, 34, is upbeat about the market’s face-lift. He said: “Change is needed and Tower Hamlets council must support local businesses during the Olympics. The area needs to be improved visually to help bring in tourists.” But Niaz Uddin, 28, seller of jewellery and other accessories, said: “The re-vamp will bring a good change to the area and benefit people working here.[However} I think the changes will only last for a while and eventually things will return to their current state.”
Uddin said that real transformations can only occur when the council ask people who live and work in Whitechapel what should be improved. He added: “We know the problems that exist in the area and small changes can make big difference.”
Another stall owner L. Abraham, 54, also selling clothes, said that he believed that residents should be consulted more.
“The re-vamp is not really worth it because there are certain individuals in the area that will make it look undesirable regardless of any changes.”
He added: “There are not many visible changes other than the road improvements, but Whitechapel doesn’t need changing. I like it the way it is.”
However fellow stall worker Jahidul Haque, 20, selling electronics and phone accessories, was more optimistic about the positive impact the changes will make to the area.
“It’s really hard to do business in Whitechapel as conditions here are not very good, so change is welcome. Hopefully these changes will bring in customers, therefore improving both business and conditions,” Haque said.
Words: Taslima Begum and Radhika Seth