Ridley Road market traders lose faith in council regeneration project

Ridley Road Market – credit Joshua Lamb

Ridley Road Market traders say there is a “complete lack of faith” in a proposed £1.5 million council investment that would give them waterproof stalls, WiFi and handheld card reader machines.

Hackney Council and East London Lines reported that in 2018, the market based in Dalston, Hackney was to be the subject of a redevelopment project pledged by the council and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. 

The council said the investment would introduce better public spaces and footpaths, new traffic and parking restrictions to help traders set up stalls and that they would “protect and improve the market, while retaining its unique character, history and culture”.

Since then, traders at the market have grown unhappy at the lack of progress in the investment and have found working conditions are becoming increasingly difficult due to trader fees increasing.

Ghulam Babar, 49 who has held a stall selling clothing at Ridley Road Market since 2016 said that the traders “no longer believe it is happening,” as they have not received any of the proposed upgrades.

“I’ve found they have only spent money on new uniforms for market officers and they have put in a new gate at the top [of the market]. We’ve heard they’re going to spend £1.5 million, but we haven’t seen it” he said.

Babar also said that there is a gap in communication between the market traders and the council which is causing issues. “If they don’t listen to the traders, they cannot improve the market” he said.

Babar’s clothing stall – credit Joshua Lamb

Hackney Council told Eastlondonlines that they have consulted with all traders for over six weeks on any changes made within the market and are currently consulting the local community in Dalston on a new “Dalston Plan”. This is with the intention of protecting green spaces and supporting existing businesses and market traders. They also said there is a newsletter keeping traders up to date with news, training and opportunities.

Larry Julian, 67 who is chairman of the Ridley Road Market Traders Association and has worked at the market as a trader for more than 50 years, said there is no sight of an investment from the council. He said the main issue facing the traders is actually the increase in fees and changes to the terms and conditions.

Julian said that pitch fees are increasing by £10-12 a week from April 1, alongside a rise in storage costs by 100 percent. Traders will now be charged £50 per week to store their products. He said this is the result of the council failing to fill empty pitches within the market.

“There’s 40 empty pitches at this market and it isn’t our responsibility to let it. You talk about the market losing money, a lot of it is at the fault of the council. The horrible thing about it is they’re making the traders subsidise that” he said.

Hackney Council have disputed this claim and said that trader fees have not changed at the market or risen with inflation since 2016 and that storage costs are cheaper than similar facilities in Dalston. 

They told Eastlondonlines that increased annual costs of over £100,000 for waste, storage and maintenance has led them to propose a small fee increase of between £2 and £3 a day to cover this. 

Julian also said that the “51 percent rule”, which means market traders must be at their stalls for at least 51 percent of the day, is making working standards difficult and that the council is not taking into consideration that traders have to arrive earlier to set up their stalls.

However, according to Hackney Council’s website the rule is not new and was in place before the current set of terms and conditions were applied to Ridley Road Market. They also said that it is lower than comparable boroughs. “It is there to make sure pitches are occupied when people are shopping” the council said. 

Signs placed by the council with their pledge in Ridley Road Market – credit Joshua Lamb

Councillor Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Planning, Culture and Inclusive Economy said that the investment is still going ahead. “The council is actively promoting the market to new customers and traders. Last year the market grew by 3 percent which represents a total of an additional 850 pitches occupied. I challenge any other street market in London to match that kind of growth” he said.

The regeneration project was first announced by Hackney Council after their “Dalston Conversation” initiative began, in which they invited members of the local community to have their say on what needed doing in the borough. Protecting the heritage of the market was one of the main issues raised by the community.

As recently as February this year, the council announced they will be running workshops with traders and local people on the design and improvements of public spaces. 

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