Hackney Council has opened talks with Ridley Road Market Traders Association (RRMTA) about its plans to redevelop Dalston's market within 2 years. In Hackney Beancounters Go Bananas we reported how the Council had previously denied the existence of any plans.
The redevelopment plans have been revealed in the context of a continuing wave of Hackney Council prosecutions of Ridley Road traders and attempts to revoke their licences. We questioned Hackney Council's motives for this punitive approach in "A spectre of corporate malice is said to stalk Ridley Road".
Hackney Council have now admitted that, because it's redevelopment plans will require moving traders off their pitches, there could be difficulties implementing its plans if traders had permanent rather than "casual" licences. Permanent licensees have legal safeguards including rights of appeal to the Courts in cases of injustice.
Hackney's Mayor Pipe has stated that it is "absolute nonsense" that there are plans to sell off market land for redevelopment and that the Council's enforcement officers are using their "Regulations" to get rid of Ridley Road's traders. But the Council is currently revising it's market Rules and Regulations - from 6 to 17 pages! Traders have voiced concerns regarding their ability to trade if such draconian rules are implemented.
Market redevelopment schemes have given rise to controversy all over the county - you can read about some of them here and here.
Larry Julian, long time Chair of Ridley Road Market Traders Association, said "We'd be very happy to see much needed repairs and improvements to the market. We would also expect to participate as partners with the Council in any plans for the redevelopment of the market. But the Council's present policies are causing untold misery and there is huge public expense from Court cases which it should have avoided"
Hackney's Mayor Pipe also stated (on the Hackney Podcast) that the traders' electricity supplies are being paid for from the public purse and he even implied that traders have been stealing electricity. The RRMTA still await Mayor Pipe's apology for this untrue and defamatory statement. Council documents have been mysteriously overlooked which appear to show that electricity costs have been included in the service charges paid by traders for over a decade. But despite already paying for the service, Ridley Road traders' electricity supplies have still not been reinstated. Their businesses will suffer even more now as the nights are drawing in.
In the face of the Council's punitive campaign some Ridley traders have been tempted by offers of "casual" licences rather than face the risk of losing their livelihoods permanently. But most traders are not prepared to be bullied or bribed by bureaucrats. One such trader who has stood up for his rights is Leslie "Bonner" Ware.
Bonner was born in Dalston. He attended Colvestone Primary and William Ellis schools. He played for Hackney Schools football team which reached the All England finals at White Hart Lane. Some of his team mates turned professional - George Adams went on to play for Manchester City and Brian Brown for Chelsea. Bonner's is one of Dalston's oldest families of market traders - so old that his great-grandparents stall was moved off Kingsland Road into the more secluded Ridley Road when cars were invented.
A tank sold off by the army to Bonner's great grandfather, Mr Julian, after the Great War.
Bonner joined the family business aged 17 and, like his parents and grandparents before him, has traded in Ridley all his working life.
This newspaper cutting from the Hackney Gazette shows traders lining Ridley Road to pay their respects to Bonner's mother who had suddenly passed away. It describes her family as being Dalston market traders for over a century.
For over 45 years Bonner has served the public at his stall without any problems from Hackney Council. He also served the Ridley Road Market Traders' Association as its Honorary Secretary for many years but he had to give up that post a while ago to focus on his family - his wife had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Bonner himself is now approaching retirement age.
Since the Council took away his bulk storage facilities in Birkbeck Road, Bonner, like other traders, had to spend more time away from the stall buying the stock to sell on a daily basis. He was also frequently called away to care for his wife. But the stall kept trading and the customers were served throughout the market trading hours with the help of Bonner's trusted assistant, Andrew.
Hackney Council officers knew all of this when they recommended that Bonner's licence be revoked. They said that, contrary to "Regulations", he had "no reasonable excuse" for not personally being on the stall for 51% of the licensed trading hours. His licence was then summarily revoked by Hackney Council's Market Licensing Panel. The Panel claims to be made up of "independent" Council officers -"independent" in the sense that one officer on the Panel is the immediate boss of the officer recommending revocation of the licences and, in turn, her boss is the Chair of the Panel.
Bonner lodged an appeal to the Magistrates Court but in the meantime Hackney Council refused his application for a new license to trade until the appeal was decided. So Bonner and Andrew were out of work and without an income.
Hackney Council quickly dropped relying on its regulations when faced with Bonner's Court appeal. The Council realised it couldn't produce evidence that it had consulted anyone, let alone the traders, before introducing the regulations last year. Thames Magistrates were not impressed. After three court appearances and a whole day's trial, it upheld Bonner's appeal. It found that, provided the stall was trading, there was no requirement for the licensee to be personally present on the stall at all! All of Hackney Council's legal costs will be paid by Council Tax payers.
Bonner said afterwards "Hackney Council seems to think it is the law. It treats us market traders like serfs. It's degrading and intolerable"
Dalston Area Action Plan
The planned redevelopment of Ridley Road Market is part of the authorities Dalston Area Action Plan to redevelop Dalston town centre. Two years ago in The story that was never told we concluded that, with the announcement to extend Dalston Junction rail link to the Overground at Highbury, the authorities had already started work planning Dalston Lane North. Traders' negotiations for new leases of the market's storage yards were suspended. The market's foodstore in Birkbeck Road was not repaired following a fire and vandalism. Many of the properties on Kingsland Road and Ashwin Street have now been boarded up or made derelict and ready for demolition.
The extent of the authorities plans for Dalston are shortly to be revealed. The writing is on the wall.
Dalston needs you.
What can you do?