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.


Saturday 7 December 2019

Is the Council really trying to help Ridley Road market?

Evidence has come to light that, despite Hackney Council's pledges to "champion existing small businesses, protect Ridley Road market and secure affordable workspaces", its officers were closely involved in trying to close down the Shopping Village indoor market last year pending private redevelopment. Hackney is also now seeking to impose draconian new terms on its street market traders, including compulsory attendance over a six day week. You can read about those terms here - it is a licence for slavery.

The Shopping Village indoor market had been purchased in November 2016 for £6.5million by the off-shore developer, Larochette Real Estate Inc.. It claims to be incorporated in the British Virgin Islands secrecy jurisdiction, but of that there is no public evidence.

In March 2018 it made a planning application to Hackney to convert the building into luxury offices and flats. The application incorrectly described the building as vacant - although at the time there were more than 25 independent small traders on the ground floor, 60 artists in occupation of the 1st and 2nd floors and street market storage.

Following a police raid, in which cannabis and cash were found, on 11 October 2018 Larochette's lessee, which managed the Shopping Village, wrote to all the indoor market traders stating " we have been in discussions with London Borough of Hackney and the Metropolitan Police who both have been considering applying to the Court for a Closure Order of the Ridley Road Shopping Village due to numerous allegations of anti-social behavior etc....Unfortunately despite all our efforts the police have now served us with a notice". The letter gave all of the traders just 14 days notice to get out, despite many having traded there for decades. In parallel, the artists on the two upper floors were also told to leave by 31 December.

An ITV news report from November 2018

The owners actions caused uproar. A vociferous community campaign led to reports in the national media. It emerged that in fact there had been no closure order but a police  Community Protection Notice (CPN) requiring improved security at the Shopping Village. Hackney was quick to respond, with the Mayor issuing as press release  stating "I am appalled at the actions of the market owners....They have chosen to use a CPN as an excuse to close the market early and damage a number of small businesses". A note added that the closure was "earlier than originally agreed"-  although not stating who the agreement was with. Agreement of the traders to leave had never been sought.To assist their departure, the Council offered the traders "fast track" access to stalls in the street market. 

Now new evidence has emerged of Hackney Council officers' involvement in the planned closure of the Shopping Village. Minutes of a meeting last month, with street market traders to discuss new licensing conditions, record Hackney's Service Area Manager boasting about "all the great work the markets team have done to improve ASB, closed down the indoor market...etc.". But as Hackney's Area Manager should know, the Shopping Village was not closed.  (We're paying for all that "great work". Thanks guys! Ed)

The Shopping Village is still trading. Despite repeated demands from the owner's lawyers for vacant possession, the indoor market traders stood firm. With support from the Save Ridley Road community campaign the traders formed an association, crowdfunded,  instructed solicitors and finally reached agreement with the owners to remain in occupation until development actually takes place and then with further benefits should that happen.

Larochette's planning application to re-develop the Shopping Village is progressing, with some further amendments lodged last week. Although Hackney states it is "set on negotiating maximum affordable workspace", its policy is not for 100% but only10% affordable workspace.

Larochette claims that construction access for the redevelopment will require closure of 28 market traders pitches. In parallel, the Council are  proposing new street traders licensing terms including condition 5.14 which, despite Hackney's denials to Hackney Citizen,  will enable them to cancel licences and move traders where necessary to facilitate redevelopment. At present developers have to negotiate with the affected traders, but the new Council rules will pull the rug from under traders' feet.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Big trouble ahead for Ridley Road market traders

On Tuesday 3rd December the Save Ridley Road campaign is inviting local people to join them from 5pm for the unveiling of a new campaign banner followed with an evening of talks, music, dancing, laughter, food and drink in the Ridley Road Market Bar until late.

You will learn the latest situation concerning the indoor market traders who successfully battled the off-shore development company which tried to evict them from the Shopping Village on just 14 days notice. And how recently it gave just 3 days notice of its intention to lock-out the tenants using the basement storage units.

You will also learn about the community's application to Hackney Council to declare the Shopping Village an Asset of Community Value. The Shopping Village has been a longstanding community resource as a place for up to 60 small independent traders, as essential storage for street market traders, and for its cultural uses by 60 artists and creatives working on the upper floors. Its owner, Larochette, which is based in the British Virgin Islands secrecy jurisdiction, has applied for planning permission to turn the Shopping Village into luxury offices and flats.

And, if that wasn't enough trouble, you will learn of Hackney Council's emerging plans to impose new licensing regulations on Ridley Road's street market traders which run to 33 pages. One trader described the document as "101 ways to lose you licence". The changes include the Council's right to cancel street trading licences when required to enable private development. ( The Shopping Village developer claims that 28 pitches in Ridley Road will need to cease trading during the works Ed.).  Hackney have recruited new staff to implement these changes including their enforcer who is reported to have been dismissed from the Met Police for misconduct following allegations of "discreditable conduct" and of using bullying and harassing language and behaviour. Another  new manager is rumored to have had a career in privatising Council markets (I fear that this is not going to end well. Ed.)

Thursday 14 November 2019

Dalston Arts seasonal fair - 30th November and 1st December

The Dalston Arts Fair is back for its third annual exhibition and sale of work by some 30 local artists and makers. The Fair will be in the beautiful Grade II Listed St. Mark's Church Hall, Colvestone Crescent E8 1LJ on Saturday 30th November from 11am and Sunday 1st December from 10am

Poster designed by Dalston artist Jane Smith

The exhibition is great opportunity to meet the artists and to buy work direct from them. (Think ahead - christmas presents! Ed.)
Diane Ambida's ceramics

The work on display will include paintings, drawings, collages and ceramics ( including six artists from Dalston's iconic Glebe Road ceramic studio)

Fiona Fouhy's monoprints

Hedy Parry-Davies' mixed media collage

Graham Stone painting 
London Trees - watercolours and prints on birch by Sheaufei Hoe
Also exhibited will be beautiful jewellery, embroidery, accessories, homeware and much more 

Ange's upcycled jewellery and accessories

Freda Silcott's batik

Shirley's truly delicious home made lunches, teas and cakes will also be available throughout the weekend - all at affordable prices.( Reason enough to visit the exhibition -Ed)

Michelle Butler's felt work

You could turn your visit into a Dalston Arts Safari. Call in at the Chocolate Factory, nearby in Farleigh Place N16 7SX, which has open studios from 11am to 6pm over the same weekend. Also, on Saturday from 11am-9pm you can visit Ridley Road Ceramics open studio upstairs at 51-63 Ridley Road E8 2NP (above the Shopping Village) 

Barnaby Hoskin's ceramics upstairs at Ridley Road Ceramics Studio 

Here are some more of the beautiful items that will be exhibited for sale at the St Mark's Church Hall  exhibition. 

Michelle Owoo's collage

Rooma Parmar's embroidery

Debbie Munday's homeware

We look forward to seeing you at the exhibition  ( Don't forget - bring some cash so you can support our local artists! Ed)

Jane Smith's print

Tuesday 9 July 2019

Community Bath House wins £35,000 crowdfund grant from the Mayor of London

The Mayor of London announced today that he’ll be backing a campaign to restore the Old Bath House on Englefield Road to the tune of £35,000. Vietnamese, Chinese and Filipino groups have come together to revive the vacant building as a community centre for migrants and refugees. The campaign needs another £10,000 to get the project over the line, or they’ll lose the Mayor’s grant and other pledges. But if they succeed, they will use the money for a community kitchen that will form the heart of the centre, and a way of building bridges with Hackney locals through East Asian cooking classes and pop-up restaurants.

You can help by contributing to the crowdfunding campaign here, which closes on 12 August 2019:

Community groups celebrating with the Mayor of Hackney on Lunar New Year

The building has served Hackney communities for almost 100 years, first opening in 1932 as a public bath house. Up until the 1960s, over 60,000 people were taking a bath there every year, paying around 40p in today’s money. In the 1980s, newly arrived Vietnamese refugees moved into the building, opening it as a community centre financed by its popular restaurant. Locals to Englefield Road still remember Mr Khane Thanh Vu, who led and co-ordinated the An Viet Foundation for over thirty years to ensure the employment training, community services, library services and the community restaurant ran smoothly.

Image of the bath house in 1947, by permission of Hackney Archives

When the An Viet Foundation dissolved in 2017, the Vietnamese community drew on the support of Hackney Chinese Community Services, and the Filipino consortium Kanlungan. If the current campaign is successful, the community kitchen will open in May next year.

Jabez Lam from Hackney Chinese Community Services said “This is a fantastic opportunity. Our new centre aims to have a community kitchen at the centre of its services, and this grant pledge will help realise our dreams. We will now be able to support our communities through elderly luncheon clubs, training locals in East Asian cuisine, or hiring out our new dining and kitchen area.

Dr Ella Parry-Davies, a University of London researcher working with Filipina migrant women, says the centre will benefit some of London’s most invisible and isolated groups. “Many Filipinos in the UK are domestic and care workers, who work long hours behind closed doors. I meet women every day who tell me they’re looking for a home away from home, a place to unite and organise to act on their rights. It’s so important to have a physical space where the community can come together.

The Bath House today

The campaign is bucking the trend of top-down “regeneration” in Hackney, and the erasure of the borough’s multicultural heritage  The Bath Community House campaign is a turning point for East Asian migrant and refugee groups, but it’s also about continuity with the past. Hackney Council has approved a £400,000 budget to stabilise the structure of the building, and the restoration will see the building extending its life as a public space.

Susan Cueva of the Filipino consortium Kanlungan said, “This provides us with a wonderful opportunity to support East Asian women in catering business, as well as encourage innovation though pop up restaurants. We’re building a home here. It’s going to be a legacy to the community.

Invitation to the laying of the foundation stone ceremony in 1931, by permission of 
Hackney Archives

Sunday 26 May 2019

Dalston Speaks - a community organised public meeting on Sunday 2nd June

Next Sunday 2nd June, between 1-5pm, local community groups have organised a public meeting to exchange and explore ideas about the future development of Dalston. The meeting is taking place in the former CLR James Library at 24-30 Dalston Lane. All locals are invited.

You can just drop in, listen in or join in the conversations, enjoy the friendly atmosphere, and stay for as long as you want. There'll be exhibitions and short films as well. Hackney's Mayor, Philip Glanville, will also be attending towards the end of the event when questions and proposals arising from the conversations  will be put to him. There's lots to talk about.

Ridley Road street market is under threat. We are all aware of the massive rises in land values and rents for homes, shops and work space in Hackney - young families, small business, artisans and cultural businesses have increasingly been priced out. 

Last October traders in the “Ridley Road Shopping Village” covered market were given just 14 days to get out by the new tax-haven corporate owner which seeks planning permission to build luxury flats and offices in their place. There was a public outcry. What can we do to help preserve the character and affordability of our market, on which so many of us rely, but which is increasingly at risk?

Central Dalston's architectural and cultural heritage is under threat. In November 2015 Hackney Council  decided that its "preferred strategy" for its Dalston sites was to recruit a development partner for a single "comprehensive development/refurbishment". Hackney has bought two of the sites as a "natural extension" of the Dalston Square development. Its plan was a package for "regeneration" which would "maximise capital value and rental revenue for the Council."  

The proposed development sites included part of the Eastern Curve Garden and properties in Ashwin Street and Dalston Lane all  of which are owned by the Council and are presently in affordable social and cultural uses. Hackney's Mayor has denied that the sites will be sold - but  Dalston's experience of Hackney's "comprehensive regeneration" schemes is one of demolition and unaffordable outcomes. What can be done to reduce the risks of  that outcome? Should the development process be controlled by a Community Development Trust? Would Hackney agree to that? Simon Donovan, who is Chief Executive of the Manor House Development Trust, will join the meeting to discuss his experience.

The air we breath in Dalston contains unlawful levels of toxic pollutants, caused mainly by motor vehicles. Its effect is chronic ill health outcomes particularly for children. How can we reduce and mitigate the overall level of  air pollution in the short and long term?  Do the Council's closures of  residential side streets make things worse by forcing more vehicles onto the main roads like Kingsland High Street and Dalston Lane - where there tend to be more schools and housing estates? Can we learn from other boroughs like Walthamstow's mini-holland scheme?

Why have developments on public land not secured more than 15% affordable housing and 10% affordable workspace? Could a neighbourhood plan help achieve more affordable homes and affordable workspace as well as protect community assets and secure community benefits? Our Dalston Speaks event takes place at a time when Hackney has submitted its Local Plan 2033 for government approval and is consulting on a supplementary plan for Dalston's future development.   Crossrail2, which could cause extensive demolitions locally, is waiting in the wings. Anna Doyle of the Soho's  neighbourhood forum will be join Dalston Speaks to recount her experience. 

The spaces between buildings are often overlooked when planning applications are considered - with the result that public space and heritage assets are diminished by dominating neighbours,  by poor design, blighted by overshadowing and made to feel gloomy, cold and unwelcoming.  

The Dalston Speaks event next Sunday 2nd June between 1-5pm provides an opportunity for you to drop in and raise the issues which are of most concern to you, to discuss them with other local people in an informal friendly environment and to contribute to a series of questions which will be put to the Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville, who will attend the event towards the end of the afternoon. Don't miss out! Do come along!

PS The local groups promoting the event, in addition to OPEN Dalston, include the Eastern Curve Garden, Save Ridley Road, Hackney Society,  Rhodes Estate Tenants and Residents Association, Colvestone School Parents Association, Dalston Conservation Area Advisory Committee, the Rio Cross Residents Association and others. The event is hosted by Hackney Council for Voluntary Services.