Campaigners fear fee hikes and stricter regulations could push the renowned Ridley Road market into decline, despite part of the area being declared an asset of community value by Hackney Council.
The Save Ridley Road campaign applied for this status in October last year in a bid to stop offshore developer Larochette Real Estate from turning the shopping village – the covered section of the Dalston market – into upmarket offices and flats.
Campaigners for the market argue if developments go ahead, rents will go up, people who currently support the market will move away, and it will ultimately be squeezed out of existence.
Giving approval, the council noted that the storage areas and retail units – used by traders – on the ground floor and the space for creative industries on the upper floors “furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community”. Despite this, they said the space could be equally as valuable in “some other way”. This means developments could still go ahead.
Danny Hayworth, Save Ridley Road campaigner and member of the London Renters Union, told Eastlondonlines that he hopes this is not “an attempt [by the council] to wriggle out of actually recognising why the building is useful.”
Back in 2016, the Acorn public house in Homerton became the first building in London to dodge demolition after being declared an asset of community value. Three years on, the early Victorian building is set to be demolished, after planning inspectors decided it would better serve the community as private flats and a bar.
Campaigners and Dalston residents also fear proposed changes to market fees and regulations could cause ‘insecurity and stress” for traders, eventually forcing them out. This would make it easier for developers to muscle in.
The council has said storage fees could double and pitch fees could rise to tackle a £100,000 rise in waste and maintenance costs. Traders could also face enforcement sanctions and/or revocation of their licence if they do not clock in and out to prove they have been present for 51 per cent of the day.
Traders are also being consulted on regulation changes around food hygiene, safety legislation, the use of single use plastics, and the logistics of operating a market stall. Consultations began December 8 and will continue until December 31.
Hayworth said making traders clock in and out on top of this would leave them with almost no time to take a break, eventually running them into the ground. He said that, as business for traders has been declining year on year, rising fees could also be “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for many.
Eastlondonlines spoke to Ridley Road Market traders to asses their response, all of whom asked to remain anonymous. They were divided on the issue.
One told Eastlondonlines that clocking in and out sounded “like being back at school”, and that “it is like battling the council…like they don’t want you to come to work.” Another said he was getting too old to keep up with the council’s requirements, and that he would “just go somewhere else”. One trader told Eastlondonlines that pricey temporary pitches were to blame for large areas of the market already being empty.
Others agreed with the proposed terms, and said it would ensure pitches were given to those who wanted to trade, rather than those who will employ others to do the work for them. They added that it would stop traders from dodging taxes by sub-letting their stalls to unregistered assistants and paying them in cash.
A council spokesperson defended the term, and told Eastlondonlines that some other markets across London require traders to be present for as much as 60% of the day. Making traders clock in was to ensure pitches were occupied when people are shopping, and that they “only seek [licence] revocation in the most serious circumstances or persistent breaches of terms and conditions.”
Defending the proposed fee hike, the council said that, even with inflation, fees haven’t gone up since 2016. They also denied claims that the market is in decline, and a spokesman added: “We have worked really hard with traders to get more pitches occupied…pitch occupancy is up 3 percent this year. We are committed to the market, and want to make sure it works for everyone.”