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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.)    





Monday, 21 March 2022

Hurrah! Planning Inspector rules in favour of sunlight for Dalston nursery school kids.

A government Planning Inspector has refused planning permission for the development of a 3 storey building stretching across the southern boundary of Colvestone School Nursery's only open space. The developer had claimed that because more than 50% of the area would still receive an annual average of 2 hours sunlight each day and that, applying the BRE Guide for Daylight and Sunlight, the loss of sunlight is "unlikely to be noticeable" and so planning permission should be granted. The Inspector rejected the developer's interpretation of the BRE Guide and its planning application.

The Inspector found, as our community has always argued, that the BRE Guide does not impose "hard and fast rules" and the Guide must be interpreted "flexibly", 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 need for an Inspector's decision arose because Hackney's Planning Committee had failed to consider and decide the application, and so the developer appealed. Although Hackney's Case Officer said that he personally would have recommended granting planning permission, Hackney made representations to the Inspector setting out objections which it said it would have made to refuse the application.


Community champion Judith Watt at the High Court during her successful judicial review which overturned Hackney previous grant of planning permission

The site has been contested space for several years with the community successfully fighting several attempts to block the sunlight benefitting our nursery school children's "outdoor classroom". The Council's  earlier grant of planning permission, to a previous owner of the site for a similar scheme, was eventually overturned on a judicial review brought by our local community champion Judith Watt. The Court found that the Planning Committee had been mislead about the degree of overshadowing which the development would cause. Judith also made detailed representations, about the correct interpretation of the BRE Guide on overshadowing, which the Planning Inspector appears to have agreed with.  The community's Friends of Ridley Road have also applied successfully to have the school's open space declared an "Asset of Community Value" because if its importance to social well being and community interests.


The new developers had outbid the Council at an auction to acquire the site but now the refusal of its planning application will have reduced its development potential and market value. Perhaps this is an opportunity for the Council to purchase the site and prevent developers seeking to enrich themselves at the community's  expense in the future.    


 

Thursday, 10 February 2022

Ridley Road : The battle for Britain's vanishing food markets intensifies as prices soar



There's been a lot of backslapping locally, about how Hackney Council has "saved" the Ridley Road Shopping Village (By taking a lease and paying £400K annual rent to the owners in a British Virgin Islands tax haven. Ed.), but the traders there are still waiting to hear from their present landlord Larochette (BVI)  about their fate - are they to be evicted, when, where will they earn a living and store their stock? So are the artists upstairs, who the Council have decided need to be evicted to make way for its Market Security Services. (They call it 'Designing out crime'! Ed). Hackney says it's a crime hotspot. (It's not. Ed.) 








Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Hurrah! Victory for Save Ridley Road campaign

Save Ridley Road campaigners are celebrating. Not only has Larochette Real Estate Inc, which owns the Ridley Road Shopping Village in Dalston, finally dropped its redevelopment plans for luxury flats and offices, but yesterday Hackney Council passed a resolution to acquire a lease of the ground and basement floors, once Larochette's refurbishment of the building is complete, and to then improve facilities for the small independent businesses and market stallholders there. Leading #SaveRidleyRoad campaigner, Danny Heyward, said "This is a major victory for the many local people who have been contesting the planned redevelopment for over three years and wanting recognition and improvement of this valuable community resource". 


For many years the building thrived as a ground floor covered market hall for 60 traders with basement storage for market stallholders and affordable studios on the first and second floor for around 60 artists. But in recent years it had become increasingly run down through lack of investment and the deterioration continued whilst awaiting a decision on its planned  redevelopment as upmarket flats and offices. The building had been acquired in 2016 by Larochette Real Estate Inc., a development company registered in the overseas secrecy jurisdiction - the British Virgin Islands tax haven. 


Hearing the news, Mohammed Barry, speaking for the Shopping Village Traders Association, said "Business has become so very difficult in recent years but this news gives us hope there may soon be refurbishment, better management and better conditions for traders and customers so we can revive the market. And we will need promotion to let our public know "We are back! Come and visit us!"  


The campaign had originally kicked off in October 2018 when the market traders were served with 14 days notice to get out. The artists' management company was also told to clear all the studios on the two upper floors by 31st. December. 

 

The campaign attracted media attention, like this TV news item, to highlight the plight of the traders

Through a vigorous & widely supported campaign of petitions, deputations, fund raising and negotiation the campaigners secured a stay of the evictions, and new leases for the remaining market hall traders, pending the outcome of Larochette's planning application for redevelopment.




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

The campaigners then continued the fight by holding events, exhibitions and film shows raising public awareness of the continuing threats to the Shopping Village and by organising workshops to assist members of the community make their objections to Larochette's planning application. 

The campaigners also spearheaded the application for the Council to nominate the Shopping Village as an Asset of Community Value. The Council approved the ACV status in  December 2019.  "We demonstrated how retaining the business and cultural activities in the building supported the social well being and social interests of the community" said Bill Parry-Davies who lodged the ACV nomination "Happily, Hackney recognised those interests and has now agreed to take the lease which it says will secure their protection. We hope things will soon get better and help the revival of the market."

  

Larochette's redevelopment application was not renewed following the cyber-attack in 2020 when its planning application and countless other Council records were destroyed. (Maybe it has postponed the redevelopment whilst they invest in converting old Fulham Town Hall to an exclusive boutique hotel. They acquired that public asset "very very cheaply" Ed.)  In February 2021 Larochette made a new planning application - but this time it was simply to refurbish the building, with no plans for its redevelopment as luxury flats. Planning approval was granted on 23 November.

Hackney's Cabinet report records that the annual rents & charges it will pay to Larochette will be £406,000pa and that 90% occupancy of the small business and storage units would be required to meet these lease overheads. It is expected,  the report says, that the existing occupiers rents will have to increase -  not least to pay the rent on the Council's Market Services own offices which are moving in to replace some of the artists studios on the the first floor.  It remains to be seen whether the remaining artists on the upper floors will be able to afford to retain their studios. 



Danny Heywood added "The plans for refurbishment and improved facilities in the Shopping Village are very welcome. It feels like a win and a brighter future. But our Save Ridley Road group has no plans to disband".