Ridley Road Shopping Village traders were shocked and dismayed today to learn that their off-shore landlord, Larochette Real Estate Inc., requires them to vacate their shops in the covered market by Saturday 20th August. None of them have anywhere else to continue their businesses, store their stock or earn a living.
Save Ridley Road has called for the community to attend the Ridley Road Shopping Village at 12 noon this Saturday 20 August to protest about the way in which the traders have been treated by Larochette and Hackney.
Traders have requested a meeting with Larochette and Hackney Council to clarify why they are now being told at this late stage to get out and why previous promises are now being broken.
follows months of attempts by the traders, with support from Save Ridley Road campaigners, to engage and cooperate with Larochette, which is refurbishing the building, and with Hackney Council which has agreed to take over management under a new lease when the works are complete. Traders feel they have been misled and treated with contempt.
Last March Larochette and Hackney Council attended a meeting called by traders to discuss the refurbishment plans. They were then sent contact details for all the traders who had confirmed that they wanted to continue their businesses during the refurbishment and requests for information about the arrangements. Larochette replied to traders stating that they would be offered alternative units "throughout the refurbishment works" and that they would be "simultaneously granted a new agreement with Hackney for a permanent unit" in the refurbished building. In June Larochette issued Notices to Quit their existing units on 20 August and confirmed that "the ground floor will remain open a least in part with enough capacity to accommodate all existing traders".
Letters continued to be sent on behalf of traders on 7 July and 2 August to Larochette and Hackney confirming their wish to continue their businesses and requesting copies of the proposed agreements for remaining in occupation during and after the refurbishment and for details of the plans. No agreements have been forthcoming from either Larochette or Hackney.
Hackney has confirmed that it appointed two officers to deal with the arrangements and who are said to have been "proactively building relationships with traders". Larochette have also stated that it was in contact with Hackney "every other day" and on 12 August Hackney informed traders that they did not need to vacate their existing units on 20 August. Hackney's Cabinet member, Cllr Fajan-Thomas, replied to the press that “We have also received assurance from the current landlord Larochette that they can continue trading from the Shopping Village."
But today traders learned, not from Larochette or Hackney, but from their new Green Party local Councillor Zoe Garbett who has been assisting them, that Larochette has written to her saying that traders must vacate their shops on 20 August so it can undertake work to "reconfigure the space" on the ground floor. In effect traders have now been told that they have only four days notice to get out, despite the promises they'd been relying on. They have nowhere to go and no certainty of being able to return to the Shopping Village at any time in the future.
Traders have always emphasised their reluctance to vacate their existing business units without firm assurances to secure their futures. "Clarification", they wrote, "would avoid a potential for a dispute and disruption of the [refurbishment] plans". But their attempts to engage with Larochette and Hackney have failed and their futures are more precarious now than when they first raised concerns last March.
Save Ridley Road have called for the community to attend the Ridley Road Shopping Village at 12 noon this Saturday 20 August to protest about the contempt with which they are being treated by Larochette and Hackney.
The Shopping Village has long been a contested space. The owner Larochette, based in the Virgin Island tax haven, applied for planning permission in 2018 to convert the building into 10 luxury flats and offices. It demand that traders get out within 14 days. This was met with furious community resistance. Traders eventually secured leases, with no rent rises and with terms for compensation and a right to return when redevelopment eventually took place.
A successful application was then made by campaigners, and granted by the Council, to designate the building as an "Asset of Community Value" because of its cultural uses ( There had been 60 artist studios upstairs but they have since been evicted so Hackney can rent space there for its Market Office. Ed.) and because it provided small ground floor units for independent traders selling affordable specialist products, basement storage for market stallholders and the open forecourt open space used by the community.
It was thought that traders future had been secured when Larochette then dropped their plans for redevelopment and agreed that Hackney could take over a management lease once refurbishment works were completed. Hackney said its management would secure the future of Ridley Road market for the traders and the community.
Years of community planning, communication and local resistance has this week suffered a major setback with Larochette insisting the traders leave their ground floor units and Hackney revealing that in future it may only be offering short term licences with weekly charges linked to rocketing inflation (the CPI index). ( From what we know so far, it looks like Hackney is seeking to make a profit from this Asset of Community Value at the communities expense. Of which more later. Ed.)