Ridley Road Shopping Village: Traders under threat AGAIN as they are hit with ultimatum by owners
PUBLISHED: 17:29 22 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:39 23 November 2018
Traders in Ridley Road Shopping Village are being threatened with eviction again – by the same owners of the building who stepped in to save them last month.
This time, they’ve been told to sign new six-month licences some aren’t happy with, or get out. They initially had a deadline of this Sunday, but the Gazette understands that has now been pushed back a week at the request of Hackney mayor Phil Glanville.
Chris Notley, who has run Raffles Discount Jewellers for more than 25 years, told the Gazette the deal was “absolutely crazy”.
“If we don’t sign this contract we will get kicked out,” he said. “If you do sign it you can get kicked out in 15 days.
“The letters were given to us by the market manager [who hasn’t been replaced] – he’s fuming about it as well. It’s not what was agreed and they are trying to bully us to get rid of us.”
“It’s all up in the air again. It makes me feel sick.”
As revealed by the Gazette in October, stallholders were told to leave the market with two weeks’ notice by management, who said they couldn’t afford to install security measures demanded by police and were therefore closing it down.
But following widespread outrage from the community and Hackney Council, owner Rainbow Properties took over management and vowed to install the measures itself.
The 20 or so traders, and the 60 artists in the studios upstairs, had already been told to move out by the end of the year because Rainbow had submitted plans to redevelop the site into shops and five luxury flats.
But Rainbow said the reprieve would last well into the new year and director Guy Ziser told the Gazette Rainbow planned to “continue the spirit” of the shopping village.
“We know it is a gem of a market, and we understand the hardship of local traders forced to close early,” he said at the time.
Hackney mayor Phil Glanville also told Rainbow to honour traders’ leases and return with a fresh planning application including affordable workspace, which the firm is now planning to do.
Last week, however, business owners received licence agreements from law firm Fladgate, on behalf of Larochette Real Estate Inc, a Virgin Islands firm that owns the freehold. Rainbow, the UK managing agent of Larochette, insists it’s just a formality and says there won’t be any extra cost to traders.
Stallholders believe they have security of tenure based on the original contracts they signed. But Larochette has refused to acknowledge this, saying the “informal licences” they did have ended when Rainbow took over the leasehold from the market managers last month.
“You currently have no right to occupy the premises or, for the avoidance of doubt, to trade from the premises,” the letter states. “Our client intends shortly to redevelop the premises. While it finalises its plans, it is however willing to agree to grant you a licence to occupy the premises.”
The businesses have therefore been given an ultimatum. And even if they do sign up, the owners will be able to evict them with 15 working days’ notice.
The licence says they will have to pay a “fair and reasonable” proportion of the building insurance, upkeep and utilities, but after being contacted by the Gazette Rainbow said it would waive any extra fees.
Mr Glanville said: “I understand traders have been offered a six month licence, as per my discussions with the owners, but that there are concerns over some technical detail of the contract.
“Tenants and supporters of the market are understandably concerned about this development, especially after what appeared to be a positive way forward from the owners.
“My commitment to the market and finding a long term future for the traders remains, so I have asked the owners to allow traders more time to consider the detail of the licence and have asked to see a copy so council staff can advise traders accordingly.”
A spokesperson for Rainbow Properties said: “The rent will be the same as they’ve been paying, no additional payments will be asked for apart from a normal rent, and we will not be making any further demands.
“We will expect every trader to also provide us with ID and contact details, which is the minimum any reasonable landlord would require, to ensure security of the site.”
“Since taking over from the previous management we have implemented security measures to address concerns of the police and authorities, such as professional security and CCTV. It also makes the market a friendlier and more approachable place for traders and shoppers.”
Ridley Village Traders Association has launched a £3,000 crowdfunder to pay for traders’ legal costs in their battle to survive.
Save Ridley Road is also holding a public meeting to share details about its campaign at St Mark’s Church in St Mark’s Rise, Dalston, at 6pm on December 5.