Saturday 25 November 2023

E8 Arts and Crafts trail and Afterparty

Next weekend Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd December from 11am until 5pm, Dalston (and Hackney) artists are throwing open their studio doors to the public. You can see who's exhibiting, and find an interactive map to guide you on your cultural safari, on the trail's website here.  

Also on Sunday 5-10pm will be your last chance to see the "Public Art Wall and Resistance Timeline", and two films telling the stories of market traders resisting gentrification (and a Q&A with the film makers) as part of an Afterparty at the Market Bar, 49 Ridley Road. Everyone is welcome!

There will be a huge array of work exhibited - fine art, prints, ceramics, textiles, jewellery, woodwork - and you can chat to the local makers and buy at studio prices (Just in time for Christmas! Ed). 

Saturday 22 July 2023

Hackney is consulting on 'privatising' its street markets

Hackney is consulting on whether to move from its present "not for profit" management of its street markets to "for profit" management. The proposal is contained in section 6.5 "Review of traders fees and charges" of its draft Markets and Street Trading Strategy 2023-2018 . The Council's Cabinet Member, Councillor Susan Fajana-Thomas, states in her introduction that the Strategy will "help us to maximise and capitalise on the many commercial opportunities available to us". You can comment on the Strategy here

To date Hackney has managed Ridley Road and its other markets under the London Local Authorities Act 1990. This provides that the Council's fees and charges paid by traders are restricted to its reasonable administrative and other costs incurred in managing the market eg for issuing and enforcing licences, street cleaning, waste disposal etc. The Act also confers rights on traders - including consultation on licence terms and conditions, rights to succession by family members and to appeal to an independent Magistrates Court against unfair treatment.

Hackney is now considering running its markets under the Food Act 1984 which will remove the restrictions on what it can charge traders and abolish their statutory rights. In other words it can run its markets for profit on whatever licence terms it chooses to offer traders and, if there is a dispute and with no longer a right of an independent appeal, Hackney will become judge jury and executioner in its own cause. It seeks to justify these changes by stating that the existing legal requirements are "quite restrictive"and "not representative of trading in present times" and that the Food Act 1984 will provide the Council with" much more flexibility". ( These explanations by Council officers are wholly self-serving Ed.)

These are not the only changes the Council is proposing to increase its income from Hackney's markets to "secure the financial sustainability of the service". For example, it proposes introducing fixed penalty notices if stallholders breach any of the 250 regulations which were imposed on them in 2019 ( See "A licence for slavery") , to charge them "pay as you go" for electricity (presently covered by their licence fees) and to increase the number of shopkeepers paying shop-front trading licence fees

The Council's plans for its street markets have been foreshadowed by its scheme for management of Ridley Road's indoor market - the "Shopping Village". Hackney Mayor's report in January 2023 explained that management under the Food Act 1984 would provide "an opportunity to generate surplus income to the Council from rents and fees", that it has "no requirement for consultation or public approval on rentals" and that enforcement action against traders "doesn't end up with the Council facing an expensive visit to the magistrates court". The Council has stated that Shopping Village licence fees will rise by 80% in the third year after Hackney takes on a lease of the Shopping Village building.

There are of course plenty of fine words and lofty aspirations in the Council's draft Markets and Street Trading Strategy 2023-28, but the devil is in the detail. Management of Hackney's street markets under Food Act licences will remove Market Services incentives to act prudently and fairly. If the right of the market trader to appeal to an independent Court is removed, traders’ livelihoods will become dependent upon their relationships with individual Council officers which opens the possibility of both arbitrariness, unfairness and favouritism and potentially to allegations of perceived or actual corrupt relationships which would be detrimental to Market Service’s staff, to traders and to the Council’s reputation This would be a very regressive step and render the market as a less attractive workplace for existing and new traders

(PS: If you feel you've heard all this before, you probably have. Saving Ridley Road market as the home of the bargain is a constant battle waged by our community against profiteering developers and Council bureaucrats. See the 2008 post "Hackney beancounters go bananas in Ridley Road market" here. Ed.)

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Community defeats developers again - sunlight saved for Dalston nursery school children

The volume and quality of 100 objections from the local community has, for the third time, led to the refusal of a planning application to build a three storey 9 metre high block across the southern boundary of Colvestone Primary School's nursery playground.

The Council grounds for refusal were the same as the main grounds of OPEN Dalston's and many other objections - overshadowing, overbearance and construction chaos. Unusually, the Mayor of Hackney also wrote a detailed objection which concluded " I am happy to be very publicly on record in my tenacious and heart-felt opposition to badly thought-through proposals of this nature that are of purely commercial value..."

On 31 January the Council made its decision to refuse the developer's application. It stated its reasons for refusal as follows:  

"1. The proposal, by reason of its height and location due south of the outdoor learning space of Colvestone Crescent Primary School would result in undue loss of light and loss of outlook/increased sense of enclosure to that outdoor area, to the detriment of the utility of the space and the learning experience that it offered....

2. The proposal by reason of its location immediately outside the trading area of Ridley Road market, and the lack of  identified suitable access for construction vehicles and submission of a framework Construction Management and Logistics plan, would obstruct and restrict the operation of the market to the detriment of the vitality of Ridley Road market and the Town Centre..."

The developer could now appeal to the government planning inspector - although its appeal to allow an earlier similar scheme had already be refused by the Inspector 12 months ago. Alternatively it could submit a less overbearing scheme or consider serving a notice on the Council requiring it to purchase the land. 

Let's hope that the Council can ensure that there will an appropriate use for the site which will avoid further energy and expense for the community and the Council in opposing unsuitable schemes.

Wednesday 21 December 2022

Monstrous imposition returns to threaten Dalston toddlers' playground

For the third time, Colvestone Crescent Grade II listed Primary School's outdoor classroom, and future generations of nursery children, are once again under threat. The adjoining owner has re-applied for planning permission  to block out their sunlight and sky with a three storey 9 metre hight development extending right across the southern boundary of the school's outdoor learning space. The owner's previous application, of the same design, had been refused last year by a Government Planning Inspector on an appeal. Hackney, which had failed to make a decision on the application,  told the Inspector it would have refused the Planning application. 

The new planning application was registered by Hackney planners on 6th December. Our local Green councillor, Zoe Garbett, has been told that any objections must be made by 9th January for an officers' decision to be made on or after 31 January.

This is Colvestone Primary School's outdoor learning space, on the junction with Ridley Road market. The triangular development site is on the left along the southern boundary.

This developer's model shows the planned three storey building's
 relationship with the school's outdoor learning space

The new development will blight future generations of our nursery toddlers. The outdoor nursery space will have a 9 metre blank brick wall towering over them and blocking out the sky all across its southern boundary You can read the application documents and make representations here. You don't need to give detailed reasons ("I object" is good. Ed.).  But if you have time to give reasons, these OPEN Dalston objections will help you identify the issues. 

Numbers count. If there are many objections the application is more likely to be decided by the elected Planning Committee members themselves, rather than just Council officials. 

If you're late, or the Council's on-line consultation is down, then just send your comments by  email to quoting Ref: 2022/2952 in the subject line.

The developer says that the scheme design is materially the same as the scheme which was rejected by a Government Planning Inspector in 2022. He had commented that "children's playgrounds have a particularly strong requirement for sunlight" and that the amount of sunlight lost would have "a significant adverse effect on the enjoyment of users of the outdoor learning space with particular regard to sunlight".

The developer has now presented more detailed overshadowing illustrations. These show, for example, that on 21 March ( Spring Solstice - the day representing the annual average overshadowing ) "A large area of shadow will cross the playground between midday and 2pm" but then advises that "In reality, the impact will be less significant than that shown due to the likelihood of cloud cover in March." ( 😂 😂 The BRE official Guidelines on Sunlight Planning make no reference to relying on weather forecasting! Ed.) 

This graphic is of the developer's computer modelling of 11am to 2pm on 21 March, showing the encroaching shadow in purple. Shadow won't leave the space until about 3pm.

PS The only reason I can think of, for not developing a more appropriate building on the site, is this 👇 Ed.   

Background story

Dalston has successfully battled two previous schemes. In 2016 our community champion Judith Watt overturned planning permission in judicial review proceedings on the basis that the Planning Committee had been mislead by the developers incorrect overshadowing calculations. 

The community's Friends of Ridley Road applied successfully in 2021 to have the school's open space declared an "Asset of Community Value" because if its importance to social well being and community interests.

Then in 2022 a government planning inspector refused an appeal by a new developer. The Inspector nailed it when commenting that "there would be a reduction in sunlight, which would be likely to make use of the outdoor learning space less attractive and therefore result in this valued area being lesser used." 

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Don't miss the Dalston E8 Arts and Crafts trail and the Community Action Groups table top fair

Dalston artists and makers are opening the doors of their private studios and inviting the public in from 11am until 5pm over the weekend of 3-4 December.  You'll be able to meet the artists, see everything from fine art, illustration ceramics jewellery textiles and more, and then haggle over the price of whatever takes your fancy. And all just in time for Christmas! Explore what's on show here, use the interactive trail map to decide on your route and then just turn up - no booking required! 

And the following weekend from 12- 4pm on Saturday 10th December there's the Community Action Groups table-top fair at the Community Centre, Lewis Place E8 1PQ ( bus stop 30 & 56 Greenacre Court). Here you'll find everything counter-cultural and sustainable from SaveRidleyRoad T Shirt printing, London Renters Union activists, Zoom bike repairs, jewellery and wreath making, pre-loved clothes toys and books, bric-a-brack, lucky-dip, cakes and a pop-up kitchen. Spread the word 💕 😊

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Ridley Road Shopping Village traders face 80% rent rises and 40 pages of regulations

Ridley Road Shopping Village traders have been shocked to learn of Hackney Council's plans for them when it takes on a management lease from their current off-shore landlord, Larochette of the British Virgin Islands tax haven. Hackney say that traders will become merely licensees with none of the rights which business tenants usually have, that rents will rise by up to 80% in the third year and that they will have to comply with 250 trading regulations, as set out in its new 40 page booklet, or face enforcement action which could include the loss of their licences to trade and possible criminal prosecutions.

Larochette's plans to redevelop the building with luxury flats and offices had been scuppered when the building was declared an asset of Community Value, but it looked like the site would then remain derelict indefinitely.  After a 4 year battle with their landlord to stay in business, traders hopes were raised in January when Hackney announced a deal with Larochette that, if they refurbished the building,  Hackney would then take on a 14 year lease of the ground floor and basement. Hackney will also take on part of the first floor for its Market Services offices.

Larochette had served the traders with notices to quit expiring in August but, following earlier promises  that the businesses could continue during refurbishments, traders protests have now secured temporary shop units there whilst the work progresses in two phases.  However Larochette has still not paid them the compensation previously agreed for vacating their Units whilst refurbishments progressed or put up external signage that business is continuing.

This film clip shows part of the successful protest against the most recent attempt to evict the traders who now continue in business whilst the refurbishments progress. You can watch the full 8 minute film here:  Ridley from Tony Price on Vimeo.

Hackney has now started informing traders of what it is offering them when it takes over. 80% rent rises for traders is likely because of the high rent which Hackney itself will have to pay Larochette. The lease rent is £400,000 annually plus VAT in the first year, with a later rent review agreed to be fixed to the Consumer Prices Index (CPI - a measure of inflation) rather than in line with local shop rents. The deal was recommended in a report presented by the Mayor of Hackney, and approved by his Cabinet in January 2022. At that time the CPI was 2% but is now running at over 10%. With the economy facing recession and with further austerity and severe decline in standards of living ahead, local shop rents are expected to decrease but the CPI is expected to rise further. (In other words, if predictions on the economy are true,  the Shopping Village rents will rise although trade will decline. Ed.)

Hackney has taken time to produce the new 40 page "Indoor Market Licence Conditions" which contains 250 regulations. They have many similarities with the conditions it produced recently for its street market stallholders ( see "A Licence for Slavery"). But there are critical differences. Instead of running the Shopping Village indoor market, like the Ridley Road street market, on a not for profit basis, the new regulations are implemented under the Food Act 1984 which has no restrictions on the Council from profiting from the undertaking or the terms which is can impose on traders and under which traders have no right of appeal against unfair enforcement action to an independent Magistrates Court. (Hackney's decisions are final. It becomes judge, jury and executioner. Ed).

It is not known what Larochette will charge Hackney for its 1st floor office space, but the remaining 1st floor studio work spaces are offered at rents calculated at £21.60 per square foot rising by 11% in the third year to £26.50 per square foot. But Hackney's proposed rents for the ground floor indoor market traders are much higher and seem to be calculated at around £149 square foot for new traders and it has told existing traders that, after an initial 5% increase, their rents will rise by 80% to that rate in year 3.

Hackney approved the community's application to designate the Shopping Village as an Asset of Community Value because of the cultural uses of the affordable studios on the upper floors, the 60 affordable Units for independent traders on the ground floor, the affordable storage units in the basement for market stall holders and because of the building forecourt's open space. Sadly, all the artists have since been evicted and their studios are to be replaced in part with Council offices, of about 60 independent traders only 18 still survive on the ground floor, the forecourt will no longer be used by traders and traders rents  will soon rocket. 

Will the building still qualify as an Asset of Community Value in future years? Will affordable and culturally diverse produce still be sold there? Or will it become an Asset of Gentrified Value selling expensive goods to a new demographic? And if the Council is unable to let 90% of the Units required to meet the rent to Larochette, will all of Hackney's street traders also face another hike in fees to meet the deficit in the Council's Market Services account?  (Those are the worries. History will be the judge. Ed.)     

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Ridley Road Shopping Village traders given 4 days to get out

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.

The news 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.   

Background story:

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.

Click here to Watch the short film "Ridley Road 2020 - a market under threat" It includes the story of the Shopping Village redevelopment battle and the other threats also facing the market

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.)