Long-standing traders at Ridley Road Indoor Shopping Village in Dalston are still fighting to stay in operation, after the village’s owners served them with eviction notices last year.
Ridley Road Market is part of the diverse local community, and is integral to Dalston’s heritage. A market has stood on the site since 1880. Yet now, traders in the market’s covered section are under threat.
Background: how the market was threatened with closure
On 15 October, traders at Ridley Road Shopping Village were told to leave the market within two weeks, as the owners were planning to develop the building into luxury flats and office space.
The managers blamed anti-social behaviour in the area as a reason for the market’s closure. Earlier in October, the police issued the market with a CPN (community protection notice) following a raid of one unit where they had found cash, drugs and knives.
Public outcry against the closure
After over 9,000 people signed a petition against the closure, the owners appeared to back down and cancelled the eviction notices on October 27th.
Representatives from Rainbow Properties Ltd, which owns the building, then told Hackney Council that the company would make sure “that the future of the building has both existing and new traders at its heart.”
However, on 22 November the company appeared to renege on this promise, when traders were issued with new eviction notices unless they signed a new six-month lease, which many traders were unhappy with.
The new license agreements were drawn up on behalf of Larochette, the property company that owns the freehold, which is based offshore in the Virgin Islands.
Many traders have accepted packages to leave immediately. Those who remain face considerable uncertainty about their future.
Seven traders are now seeking compensation through the courts. A fundraiser in support of the traders’ legal fees, ‘Save Ridley Road Community Celebration’, will take place on 30 March in Gillett Square, featuring food and musical performances from local artists.
Are the owners’ revised plans “worse”?
After public outcry against the redevelopment, the owners have since revised their plans for the building. The latest plans, issued on 11 March take some of the community’s concerns into consideration, for example in allowing up to 20 small retail spaces in the development.
However, local Daniel Haywood, writing on the Save Ridley Road Facebook page, says that in some ways the new application is “worse”, as it includes “more high-rent office space,” meaning less affordable housing for Hackney residents.
The plans also contain no assurances that the market traders and artists who work in the Village can stay. Haywood urged residents to send their objections to Hackney Council.
A pattern of gentrification
Many locals see the redevelopment as part of a pattern of gentrification in the capital. At a campaign meeting on 5 December, they drew comparisons between Ridley Road’s situation and the recent closure of the Latin Village Market in Seven Sisters.
Some traders even felt that the initial accusations of drug dealing were simply an excuse for redevelopment.
Mohamed Barry, a trader who has been campaigning for the market’s survival, said: “The problems with drugs are happening everywhere. No one is OK with drug dealers. But it’s an excuse to get rid of us.”
One trader also suggested racism was a factor in the market’s closure.
B Martin, who ran a reggae music stall in the market for ten years, said: “The reason is gentrification, which equals economic racism. We are the Windrush descendants. The Council is helping re-gentrify the area – pull down our flats, make us homeless.”
Christian Ward, who works as an artist in the studios above the market, also feels that assurances to traders are not enough. The developers “did the bare minimum to keep people off their back by letting the traders stay,” he said.
Sadiq Khan offers £1.5 m to boost the market
In December, Sadiq Khan allocated £770, 000 to boost the market, matched by Hackney Council. The money will be used to regenerate the market, providing electronic card-readers to stall-holders and green areas for pedestrians.
Nonetheless, not all residents are happy with the changes. Ward says that Hackney Council’s ideas represent a “top-down approach.” Measures such as handheld card readers are “stuff that’s pretty useless to traders.” He feels the area “is not going to be developed in the interests of the market.”
Another artist working in the studios agrees. Andrew Palmer says the problems for traders at Ridley Road reflect “a lack of national policy that gives powers to councils to operate in in the interests of communities. The balance of power favours developers.”
There is strong local support for the traders, who will continue their fight to stay in the market. Despite this, Ward feels that without sustained public outcry against the closure, the redevelopment is a done deal. “I am pretty pessimistic. It’s up to how emotional people get about this.”