Troubled plans to redevelop Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market put ‘on hold’ by Tower Hamlets Council
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Controversial plans to redevelop Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market have been deferred at a packed Tower Hamlets planning meeting.
Rival groups of market traders and tenants living on the Lansbury estate waved banners in the public gallery as councillors voted last night to put a ‘hold’ on the scheme.
None of the campaigners wanted it killed off, but many protested at Poplar Harca regeneration organisation’s “lack of consultation”.
Two issues prevented the massive scheme that’s been in the pipeline for 10 years from finally getting the green light—lack of enough social housing and scrapping shoppers’ car-parking.
It followed a petition with 6,000 names calling for the scheme to be put back, after a protest meeting last Saturday and a demo outside Poplar Harca offices.
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Campaigner Terry McGrenera accused the Poplar Harca organisation of switching from community housing 20 years ago to becoming a commercial housing provider.
The 649 homes planned in the regeneration included a ratio for sale on the property market increased by 250 per cent, while social housing would be demolished, he pointed out.
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Car-parking was also “an example of how planners have failed to comprehend what Chrisp Street market means to everyone”.
He was cheered in the gallery when he told councillors: “There is no study into the social impact that the redevelopment will have, because people don’t matter to them. This scheme is not going to be passed!”
The shopkeepers fear being priced out with hyped rents and rates. Feelings ran high between traders led by DIY store owner Murtaza Hasanie calling for the scheme to be put back and residents urging going ahead.
“No-one is saying ‘no’ to redevelopment,” Mr Hasanie told the East London Advertiser during the meeting. “The market is run down and needs rejuvenating, but they are dictating what we do and where we go.
“We’ll be forced to quit because we won’t be able to afford to stay. They want to turn Chrisp Street into another Westfield where local shopkeepers won’t be able to afford the rents.”
But some store owners were pressing for change and urged the planning meeting to push ahead with Poplar Harca’s plans, like Jean Palmer, a trader for 39 years who has chaired the Chrisp Street Partnership.
She told councillors: “I have watched this place decline over 40 years. It’s trapped in the 1980s—dirty, sad, run-down. It’s got drug-users, beggars and no security.
“We should bring it into the 20th century (sic) and this is the opportunity. Don’t let the area become a ghetto.”
Many residents waved banners saying “Yes to a new Chrisp Street Market” while others held placards demanding “more social housing” and “car parking for customers”. Passions were running high on both sides.
Poplar Harca later told the Advertiser: “We are demolishing 124 social homes, but are replacing them with 136 new ones plus 27 ‘living rent’ and 37 shared ownership properties.”
The organisation insisted it had “listened to concerns about customer parking” in the past week, but believed there wasn’t a need.
Shopkeepers like Bargain Zone’s Shawkat Ahmed who was at last night’s town hall lobby is worried that the lack of any customer parking will kill off the market. He said later: “Any market without a shoppers’ car-park will be disastrous. All the small traders would have to go.”
Cllr Peter Golds warned about rejecting the scheme outright as Poplar Harca would be able to appeal and a government inspector would decide.
But he insisted: “We should never consider any reduction in social housing in a borough like Tower Hamlets—this is an appalling insult to the families on our housing waiting list.”
Poplar Harca maintains that there is “a gain of social and ‘affordable’ homes”, despite Cllr David Edgar, chairing the meeting, mulling over the idea of putting the scheme on ‘hold’.
The authority voted seven-to-one to refer the scheme back to Poplar Harca to come up with a better plan and get the regeneration going “as soon as possible”.