Ridley Road Market: Long-standing traders battling with council management team

Robert Evans, who is under investgiation for sub-letting his pitch.

Robert Evans, who is under investgiation for sub-letting his pitch. - Credit: Archant

Long-standing Ridley Road Market traders have criticised the enforcement tactics of the new management team – but the council says it is simply making things fairer for all stallholders.

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

Tony Clayton, 65, left the veg stall his family have run on the famous shopping street for generations last month. He says bosses had begun pressuring him and his assistant over his lack of time spent at the market.

Tony has been a full-time carer for his elderly mother since she had a stroke last year, but despite a doctor's note stating this he says he was given little leeway about not meeting the requirement of being present for 51 per cent of a working day.

"About six months ago the new markets team started to put a lot of pressure on me and the guy running my stall," he explained. "I said I'm a full time carer. I've been a street trader all my life. When my dad died the licence was handed to me, that was 35 years ago."

Tony says he decided to give up his licence rather than take on the enforcement team.

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears

Hackney Town Hall. Picture: Ken Mears - Credit: Archant

"I couldn't comply with it, to be fair," he said. "But they weren't giving me any leeway.

"I'm really upset, it's made me a bit poorly. I've had sleepless nights and been a bit depressed, mainly because I'm the last Clayton.

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"We've been down there since my great, great grandfather. I think they are ruining it."

Robert Evans's family has run his fruit stall for 50 years. Now the 71-year-old, who is battling prostate cancer, is being investigated for sub-letting, which he denies. As a result, he has been told he also cannot hire a new assistant, which he needs due to his illness.

He said: "They said I can have one but only until 9am, to help me do the heavy lifting. "I've been here 50 years but by midday now I've had enough. I have to go to Spitalfield wholesale to get the fruit and veg at 4am.

"I go to the doctor's three times a week and I'm about to start radiotherapy. I've never been in trouble before.

"They're just trying to get rid of all the old traders because they can't do the work anymore. They want commercial people, they're trying to turn it into Broadway Market."

After the Gazette reported two weeks ago that traders' feared for their future due to an increase in fees and tough new regulations, another group contacted us to say they were completely on board with what the council was doing.

"We feel it has been misrepresented," they said. "All the council is doing is trying to get rid of people doing dodgy dealing."

Council economy chief Cllr Guy Nicholson reiterated the council would protect the market "well into the future".

He said: "We treat all traders equally and fairly, and almost all of Hackney's traders work to the rules and create great street markets. It's not fair on the majority when a small minority play by different rules. As a result of tackling subletting, committed traders have been able to move their pitches to busier parts of the market, which is helping to grow their businesses and provide quality goods.

"There have been a number of cases where subletters have been ripped off for pitches and storage that aren't being used by other traders. That's why we've stepped in to support some of them."

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