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Dalston’s Ridley Road Shopping Village to close over drugs and ASB – traders given fortnight to leave

PUBLISHED: 16:30 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 10:10 25 January 2019

Ridley Road Studios.

Ridley Road Studios.

Ridley Road Studios

Ridley Road Shopping Village is being closed down after enforcment action from police over drug dealing and anti-social behaviour – kicking out long-standing traders with just two weeks’ notice.

Chris Notley outside his jewellers Raffles. Picture: Sam GelderChris Notley outside his jewellers Raffles. Picture: Sam Gelder

Business owners who have stocked up for the Christmas trade have now been told to bring their shutters down for the last time on October 26.

The historic retail street’s indoor market and the artist studios above it were set to close for good at the end of the year to make way for luxury flats and upmarket shops. But the new deadline has knocked traders for six and will see them miss out on vital holiday takings.

Chris Notley has run Raffles Discount Jewellers for 27 years. He and the other 20 or so traders were given letters by the market owners on Wednesday saying they were left with “no choice” but to close it.

It states bosses were served a notice – now revealed to be a community protection order (CPO) – and that police and the council had been considering a closure order for some time due to “numerous allegations” of anti-social behaviour. The final straw is believed to have been a raid a couple of weeks ago in which drugs, cash and knives were found at one unit.

Elie Mattar says he has nowhere to put all his furniture after being given less than a month's notice. Picture: Sam GelderElie Mattar says he has nowhere to put all his furniture after being given less than a month's notice. Picture: Sam Gelder

If the owners did not comply with the CPO and take steps to tackle the problems they could have faced court action themselves, so instead they decided to close up early.

“Everybody was so stunned,” Chris told the Gazette from behind his counter. “I don’t normally open Mondays but I’m fighting for my life now. We are all very upset because we’ve done nothing wrong.

“They seem to believe it’s our problem, but it’s because of the scarce amount of police in Ridley Road.

“Five or six years ago we used to have beat coppers here and everybody knew them, so if you had a problem you’d just talk to them.

“But you could go three months without seeing a police officer now.”

There are regularly people smoking cannabis around the building, but on the anti-social behaviour Chris added: “It’s just boyish messing about. It’s not that bad at all, and we keep it sorted out ourselves.

“If anything happens we tell them to calm down. There might be a punch-up once a year at worst.”

Some traders have already packed up and left after receiving the letter. Chris is now calling on the community to support those that remain in the time they have left.

“We’re going to lose all our Christmas trade, which is at least 50 per cent of our takings for the year,” he said.

“We sit here twiddling our thumbs for seven of eight months waiting for Christmas to get that little cherry on the cake and it’s going to be taken away from us.

“Twenty-seven years we’ve been here, and before that we were in the unit down the road.

“There’s parents in here, and a guy who’s trying to put two children through university – he’s so upset.”

Chris was already planning to retire when the market closed. An application is in to redevelop the site and replace the existing units with upmarket retailers.

“I’ve had enough,” he said. “I haven’t got the energy to start again, I’m 67.”

Next door to Chris is Elie Mattar, who has owned Matmous Furniture for 11 years.

“I’ve got two weeks to clear all this [furniture] out and take whatever money I can get for it,” he said. “I haven’t got another storage unit.

“I was expecting to have until after Christmas to find a place.

“Police know everybody in here. People smoke in front of them and they don’t do anything.”

The letter from bosses at Ridley Road Shopping Village said: “Unfortunately, despite all our efforts, the police have now served us with a notice.

“We therefore have no alternative but to CLOSE the Ridley Road Shopping Village. The decision is of course taken with great sadness.”

Traders are not being charged rent for their last two weeks, chiefs said.

Hackney mayor Phil Glanville has had his say on the matter and blamed the owners for not working with police to tackle the problems.

He said: “I am appalled at the actions of the market owners. They have chosen to use this CPN as an excuse to close the market early and damage a number of small businesses, rather than act as a responsible owner and work with tenants and the Police to drive down anti-social behaviour.”

Mr Glanville said he “absolutely recognised” people would see the closure as a symptom of wider changes in the area, and urged people to respond to an ongoing consultation about Dalston’s future.

The Gazette has contacted police for comment. Police last month referred to Ridley Road as a “drugs hotspot” after executing a series of warrants at stalls in the outdoor market.

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