Thursday, 2 April 2020

Artists express fears over loss of Ridley Road's cultural heritage

Despite the lockdown, Ridley Road Market is still trading in essential affordable products. The stalls are widely space, packed out with delicious vitamin rich fresh produce plus you can get a free Vitamin D boost by shopping in the spring sunshine!

Meanwhile Hackney Council planners' decision on the application for redevelopment of the Ridley Road Shopping Village is getting closer. The Council's planning case officer recently commented "It may be on the next sub-committee agenda, so keep an eye out" . The next Committee meeting is on 13th May 

Although we have all been in lockdown, campaigners have continued with virtual Zoom meetings and working behind the scene to produce these two short films in which artists based in the Shopping Village talk about their work and the impact which redevelopment could have on Ridley Road and its cultural heritage.

We are saddened to report the passing of Douglas Sparks following coronavirus infection. Douglas was a member of the #SaveRidleyRoad campaign and a musician performing as U K Principal. When the restrictions are lifted we will share memories of those we have lost during the current pandemic.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Hackney reveals nine key Dalston "opportunity sites" with development potential

Hackney has revealed nine key development sites in Dalston with potential for development in the forseeable future.They are  described as "opportunity sites". They appear on this map. Hackney is now consulting the public on its objectives which will shape their future development . 

The "opportunity sites" identified include some which have already been or remain in contention like Ridley Road and the  Ashwin Street "cultural quarter" (including the Eastern Curve Garden) and Gillette Square. Others include Birkbeck Mews where plans are now on hold; Kingsland Shopping Centre which  would be developed for flats, shops and as an underground station if Crossrail2 goes ahead; Kingsland overground station and the former CLR James library 

Hackney has released a summary and a detailed report on the community's views over a wide range of local issues - it has reviewed over 2,000 on-line comments made on its Dalston Conversation website. Hackney have now proposed some development objectives and it is seeking further public comments on those objectives which it says will inform its policies for the 15-year Dalston Plan.

This is a screen shot of Hackney's Dalston Conversation on-line comments map. Hackney reports that, including public meetings,  5,000 people took part in the consultation and over 2,000 people pinned comments to the online map 

10 issues have been identified to focus the public's views on Hackney's local development objectives . They ask us to comment on issues including green and open space, shopping and town centre, Ridley Road, transport and movement, buildings, work space and employment, housing, culture, evening and night time economy, inclusive and safe environment. You can make your comments either on-line here or by attending Hackney's events at CLR James Library on  Tuesday/Wednesday  11/12th February at 4pm – 8pm and at Eastern Curve Garden on Saturday 15 February, 12am – 3pm.

If you go on-line here to comment you will see the 10 issues boxes. When you click on one you can read what the community has previously said, what Hackney's borough wide Local Plan 2030 policy states, and you are then asked to indicate the extent to which you agree or disagree with Hackney's development objectives. There is also very important space at the end of each to make general comments about omissions and reasons for disagreement.

When the 57 East tower was approved there was a policy for 50% affordable housing but only 15%  resulted and none for social renting.

You may find many of the "Objectives" seem positive, but consider them carefully. We have had positive planning policies before but these often seem to have been ignored when permission was granted. Can the objectives be tightened up? Based on your knowledge and experience of the area, is their wording strong enough to protect what we love locally and do they go far enough towards meeting the diverse needs of the whole community. Will there be something left in Dalston for everyone?

There was a  policy to preserve our local heritage but permission was granted to redevelop Hackney's Dalston Lane Georgian terraces with a scheme which resulted in their total demolition with no affordable housing at all

There was a policy to protect public space but buildings have been allowed which plunge public spaces, like the entire Eastern Curve walkway and our community garden, into shadow .

In terms of the objectives proposed, for example, one of the green space objectives is "to protect the Eastern Curve Garden" but the words "as an enclosed managed space" have been omitted. Without enclosure the open space could still become a public thoroughfare and lose its sense of intimacy, its secure environment for children and its financial sustainability. 

Another example : what would happen to the traders and artists who will face eviction by the Ridley Road Shopping Village office/residential redevelopment ? The objectives refer generally to "protecting and promoting" Dalston's market traders and Dalston's arts and culture - but they don't require that workspace of the type which would be lost in that redevelopment must be retained or replaced. How would that redevelopment sit with Hackney's decision that the local benefit of the existing uses make the site an asset of community value?

We encourage everyone who is invested in Dalston's future to spend some time considering the Council's plans and, using your own knowledge and experience of the area, suggest improvements to their development objectives.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

Latest plans for Ridley Road Shopping Village development

Larochette, the owner based in the Virgin Islands tax haven, has submitted amended plans for the redevelopment of the Ridley Road Shopping Village.  The new plans will involve a substantial loss of space presently used for market storage and by numerous small independent traders and artists. Hackney recently decided the existing uses made the site an "asset of community value".

The present mix of uses comprises basement market storage, a ground floor indoor market for up to 60  small businesses, open amenity space on the forecourt and 2 upper floors of studios used by 60 artists. Since the original development plans dated April 2018 the site has been contested space and attracted controversy.

You can see the developers latest planning application documents dated 27.11.19 here.  You can comment and object on-line  until 16.02.20 or later by email to quoting the reference number 2017/2897. You can see OPEN Dalston's detailed description of the development, its impact and objections here.

The planning application was amended on 27 November and would, in summary, now involve:
- the loss of 39 of the 60 units for small independent traders, with space lost being used to service the proposed offices and flats
- the loss of 50% of the basement's market storage, with the remainder to be offices
- conversion of the 2 upper floors to "high standard" offices with only 10% to be affordable at 80% of market rate ( The artists probably wont be able to afford what's "affordable"! Ed.)
- a new 3rd storey for 1x2-bed and 4x3-bed "very high standard" flats.
- landscaping of the forecourt's open space
These changes will result in a substantial  reduction of the existing uses which Hackney Council found contribute to the "social well being of the community" when it concluded that the building is "an asset of community value".

To protect the existing uses, and even if you objected to the earlier plans, please make objections to the Council planners. If you are in the market please sign the petition which many traders are promoting to support the #SaveRidleyRoad campaign.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Hackney Council is "strangling the market with red tape"

The Ridley Road Market Traders Association has sent in objections to Hackney's plans to increase market fees and charges and to impose draconian licensing conditions on its traders by 1st April.

Hackney's 280 conditions have been described as a licence for slavery. The Association commented that "Our overall view is that, far from helping the market, the existing and new conditions are strangling it with red tape" and that "the imposition of these requirements make many traders businesses unviable".

The Association described the Council's consultation as a "deeply flawed process" and its proposed licensing conditions as "oppressive and disproportionate" which could lead to "a loss of respect for and ridicule of the regulatory process, and expose both [Council] officers and traders to allegations of abuse and to actual abuse"

The Council did not consult the Association on its plans and refused to extend its consultation period. However Councillor Nicholson informed the Association that "officers would consider its views". Traders voted overwhelming to reject the Council's plans at a meeting last Thursday, organised by the Association, and now await the outcome of  their objections.


Thursday, 19 December 2019

Consultation or con? Hackney's new conditions for its market traders

Hackney's consultation with Ridley Road street market traders, about their new licence for slavery, has descended into farce.

It started with some Council notices on lamp posts in Ridley Road announcing consultation meetings on Friday 15th and Tuesday 19th November in their Ridley Road office. Traders went along, only to be told by the receptionist on both occasions that she knew nothing about it.

Next a meeting was announced at the Mare Street Town Hall at noon on 21st November - right in the middle of the traders' working day. A few attended. It was agreed to hold a local meeting and the minutes recorded that for 5th December at 5.30pm - but no venue. Traders didn't know where to go.  

Ah well, say the Council officers, the consultation is only a "courtesy and not a legal right " (Wrong! Ed.)

Meanwhile Hackney are rushing through their increase in traders' fees and charges, without even the appearance of proper consultation.

Imposing bossy top down regulations, in this case 280 clauses and sub-clauses over 34 pages, puts all the traders livelihoods at risk. It causes them stress and fear of speaking out - especially for the many casual traders who have no right of appeal to an independent Court. The new Hackney market trading conditions are not just a licence for slavery but a licence for bullying and bribery. Sadly that has been part of the history in Ridley Road market. The new conditions and charges will make it even worse and put its survival at risk. (Use it or lose it. Shop local! Ed ) 

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Ridley Road Shopping Village declared an Asset of Community Value

On 13 December Hackney Council decided that Ridley Road Shopping Village (the covered market building and land at 51-63 Ridley Road) is an Asset of Community Value (ACV). Hackney's Director of Strategic Property Services' decision results from an application made by Save Ridley Road campaigners last October.

The decision noted that the ground floor had longstanding uses as small retail units and storage areas, with some open space fronting the building, and upper floors used by artists and others in the creative industries. The decision concluded that, in view of the current use, the building and land "furthered the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community" and "was of community value" .

The Shopping Village has been a contested space in Ridley Road since its purchase for £6.5m by off-shore investors in 2016. The developers have an outstanding application to turn most of it into upmarket offices and flats. You can read the latest campaign news here.

The community rallied in October last year and resisted the developers demand that traders get out within 14 days

The Council's decision also noted that "there was no reason to think that the building and land  could not continue to  further the social wellbeing or social interests of the community,whether or not in the same way". The developer now has 8 weeks to request the Council to review its decision.

            The developer has recently submitted some design changes to its planning application. It has now omitted building over the forecourt's open space ( which will be landscaped) and it proposes to  retain 21 of the existing 60 small retail units on the ground floor and to retain  360m² (50%) of the 718m² of existing basement storage facilities. It still proposes conversion of all the artists' studios into high standard commercial accommodation” ( 10% of these offices will be "affordable") and a new storey with 5 very high standard” family flats (now of increased size to meet minimum standards). 

The Council's Planning Committee will in due course have to decide whether the developers application should be given planning permission. 

More news: Hackney will allow free parking around Ridley Road from 14th to 21st December to help boost the market's economy.

Monday, 9 December 2019

A licence for slavery - Hackney's new terms for market traders

Hackney is presently consulting Ridley Road and its other street market traders on new licensing conditions. They run to 33 pages with 280 conditions.  If traders slip up on the licensing conditions they can be fined and their licence to trade can be varied, suspended or revoked and lead to a loss of their livelihood. Breach of conditions can also be criminal offences with the risk of prosecution. Fees for licensing and Council storage are also increasing, some by 12%-20%, and their container storage charges will double. The traders right to object has been extended until 31 December 2019.

Hackney have employed new staff  to manage Ridley Road market. The chief enforcer is a former police officer who was reported to have been dismissed from the Met Police for misconduct . The Police have confirmed that he was dismissed without notice following a gross misconduct hearing at which the allegations were found proven. the new chief manager, formerly of Havering Council,  has had a career in both public and private  markets. He says the Council will "tighten up on enforcement forwarned". In their enthusiasm, some enforcement actions under the new conditions  seem to have already begun even before the consultation period has ended and the new conditions adopted.

Many of Hackney's licensed traders are up before dawn to get their stock from the wholesale markets between 3am and 6am. Hackney's new conditions require them to have set up their stalls by 8.30am ( or lose their pitch), sign in a the office by 9.30am ( or be sent home), be personally present for 51% of the day, sign out by 6pm and clear their stuff from the street by 7pm. That's a 16 hour day/six day week, Monday to Saturday,  or face losing your licence. Plus no holidays exceeding 2 weeks without Hackney's permission. The new conditions are a licence for slavery. And the new licence fees and storage charges could be the final nail in the coffin for many traders.

As one trader said "There are 101 ways to lose your licence". In fact there are 280 conditions and sub-conditions which go into the minutest detail and all must be complied with to the letter or the trader will face enforcement action. The new Council conditions will pull the rug from under traders' feet by creating insecurity, stress and expose them to bullying and victimisation.

Hackney has been working with developers of private buildings along Ridley Road. Larochette claims that construction access for their Shopping Village redevelopment will require closure of 28 market traders pitches. The new licensing conditions include the requirement for traders to move their pitch, and change the design of stalls and awnings, if it is considered to be in the interest of "redevelopment of a particular area".  These new conditions seem designed to assist the gentrification of Ridley Road even though the market provides essential affordable fresh food and goods for our community in this age of austerity.

The Council has a history of over-regulating and bullying Ridley Road's street market traders despite them being the life blood at the heart of Dalston. You can read some of the background here and here and here. Our market is  where people of all races and backgrounds are united in a common purpose. This diversity is something that makes Ridley Road - and Dalston - unique, vibrant, attractive and sustainable. Long may it continue.