Friday, 24 October 2008

Dalston's market traders told to get out

Electric to the Ridley Road market traders' coldstore is about to be disconnected. The Council has told traders to vacate the Birkbeck Road building within 14 days. The power is about to be cut off. It comes at a time when the building has been identified as a "development opportunity" site.

The Council says that, following a fire, the building is a "potential health and safety hazard". Building Control are said to have declared it a "dangerous structure". Management have said that the building is "uneconomic to repair", "should be demolished" and that the Council has "no obligation to provide a market store". The Council has offered the displaced traders some containers for rent in the car park next door for the time being.

This latest shutdown of electrics follows the disconnection of the Council supply to all market stalls last May. That supply is still not restored. The traders have been relying on generators and local shops for lighting. Ridley Road Market Traders Association (RRMTA) made a Freedom of Information Act request for the reports which, the Council said in May, justified the electric shutdown on health and safety grounds. The Council now say there weren't any reports. The Council also alleged at the time that traders had vandalised the facilities. The RRMTA has appointed an independent electrical engineer.

All these photos are from the 1970s and 80s when Ridley Road market had proper lighting. But today there is none. The nights are drawing in and very soon the clocks will go back.

The displacement of Ridley Road's market traders is a torturous tale. At one time the market storage yard and sheds were where Sainsburys is now.

But the Dalston Cross shopping centre development displaced the market traders who were moved to a new store in Birkbeck Road.

Birkbeck Road has had a troubled history of its own. This photo shows the fire in the mews in 1979. The new market store was built on the land cleared after the fire. But 5 years ago the new store itself caught fire and is now to be demolished - a commonplace event in Dalston these days. The Council left it unrepaired ever since the fire and has refused to accept traders' rents and has denied their tenancies.

Now, once again, Birkbeck Road has been identified as a "development opportunity" site. Along with the whole of Ridley Road market. Hackney's Mayor Pipe has denied any intention to sell off market land for redevelopment but more recently the Council has opened talks with RRMTA regarding redevelopment of the market.

With the loss of the Birkbeck Road store for perishable goods, the lack of secure lighting and power to the stalls, the wave of Council prosecutions and licence revocations and with new market Regulations planned, which will stretch to 17 pages, it is becoming impossible for the Ridley Road stallholders to sustain their businesses. The supermarkets and developers must be delighted.

All the photos here have been taken over the years by Alan Denney. You can see collections of his work here.


  1. It strikes me that there are quite a lot of people who would oppose the council's intentions to shut down Ridley Road market in order to make way for some lovely new developments. How can these people be informed, mobilised and employed to actively express their views?

    Utilising an online petition could work in conjunction with a paper petition and leafleting campaign around the market itself. Media interest can be generated around the issue, which would serve to scupper the council's plans. Time is short, but it's not too late to act, or at least register a massive expression of popular opinion.

    Together, we can work to save one of the few spots of London that truly serves the local community, and hasn't been tainted by the corporate dream.

  2. I'm fascinated (and somewhat bemused) that two weeks after leaving this comment, no response has been posted. Are my comments facile or weak? I am suggesting a redundant argument or strategy? Is no-one reading this blog? I am interested to know... surely if there is anything that we have learnt from Obama, it is that everything occurs from a grass roots level? Please respond, even if you have criticisms against my approach...

  3. The authoirties plans are starting to emerge and the Council's "Dalston Masterplan" is due to be published within weeks. Do come to the Cafe Oto event next Monday evening when OPEN will tell of what we knowso far. Your ideas and involvement are welcomed.
    PS This blog is getting over 3,000 hits per month presently.

  4. The authorties plans for Dalston are starting to emerge and the Council's "Masterplan" is due to be published within weeks. Do come to the Cafe Oto event next Monday evening when OPEN will tell of what we know so far. Your ideas and involvement are welcomed.
    PS This blog is getting over 3,000 hits per month presently.

  5. I'm very much against Dalston being clumsily redeveloped by the council.
    I worry that the council wants to sweep away what gives the area character and would rather have a chain store led high street that would be similar the majority of other high streets in the country.
    If people want chain stores and a generic town centre I wonder why they don't just move elsewhere. There is a huge choice of identikit boring areas to choose from - can I particularly recommend Watford.
    I work as a newspaper journalist in London and know from experience that it takes a concerted and well advised resident's campaign to change council policy. It is possible, because I have seen it done very effectively, but it is not easy.
    I hope I have mis-interpreted the council's intentions and will be looking at the masterplan to see what they propose.


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