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Poplar traders fear being ‘pushed out’ of Chrisp Street Market by high rents and scrapping car-parking

PUBLISHED: 10:09 30 April 2018 | UPDATED: 17:16 30 April 2018

Babu Bhattacherjee taking petition from Chrisp St traders. Picture: Mike Brooke

Babu Bhattacherjee taking petition from Chrisp St traders. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Angry market traders have slammed their landlords in Poplar with a petition to save their livelihoods over redevelopment they fear will wipe out their trade or price them out of business.

In all weathers... stallholers at Poplar's 1951 Chrisp Street Market which is soon being redeveloped. Picture: Mike BrookeIn all weathers... stallholers at Poplar's 1951 Chrisp Street Market which is soon being redeveloped. Picture: Mike Brooke

The petition followed an open air election hustings that turned into a spat against Poplar’s Housing and Regeneration organisation when protesters turned out in the rain to hear candidates for mayor promise action to protect Chrisp Street Market if they were elected.

A new neighbourhood shopping centre plan by Poplar Harca housing which runs the market was stalled by Tower Hamlets Council in February over lack of “meaningful” consultation.

“It’s been 13 weeks since their application was stopped,” bargain store trader Shawkat Ahmed told the East London Advertiser. “We’ve emailed and written to them, but they haven’t replied.”

The new scheme failed to get approved three months ago when market traders picketed the town hall.

Angry traders gathering petition in Poplar to save their Chrisp Street market trade. Picture: Mike BrookeAngry traders gathering petition in Poplar to save their Chrisp Street market trade. Picture: Mike Brooke

Poplar Harca’s plans, which get rid of all car-parking, only cater for shoppers living within 15 minutes’ walk, its communities director admitted this week.

Traders fear this move and rocketing shop rents would drive out their business and force them out.

Poplar Harca’s communities director Babu Bhattacherjee told the Advertiser: “This scheme is for people within a 15-minute walk of the market which won’t compete with Canary Wharf or Westfield.

“We believe most people will come by foot or make their journeys in a way that won’t require parking.

Traders protest at Tower Hamlets Council in February, 2018, over Poplar Harca's plans to get rid of all shoppers' parking when it redevelops Chrisp Street Market. Picture: Mike BrookeTraders protest at Tower Hamlets Council in February, 2018, over Poplar Harca's plans to get rid of all shoppers' parking when it redevelops Chrisp Street Market. Picture: Mike Brooke

“Planners say it should be a car-free development in order to be compliant, otherwise it would be grounds for rejection.”

The new centre without parking would include a cinema. But critics who also point out lack of enough social housing reject the claim that banning cars was official planning policy.

DIY trader Murtaza Hasamid claimed planning policy was “being manipulated the way they want us to hear things”.

He said: “Poplar Harca is spreading this as if the council wants a car free zone—but that doesn’t mean a developer can’t apply to build an underground or multi-storey car park on their own land. There are 12 towers which have gone up in the Chrisp Street neighbourhood, the last passed in September had planning for 120 cars.”

Harca communities director Babu Bhattacherjee.  Picture: Mike BrookeHarca communities director Babu Bhattacherjee. Picture: Mike Brooke

Poplar Harca, which took over the market from the council when housing estates were transferred 10 years ago, has come in for public condemnation from the mayor and the local authority for keeping social-rented flats empty before selling them on the property market and for rocketing parking charges for families who used to park free outside their homes.

Election candidates from only two of the seven political parties vying for the office of mayor turned up at the Chrisp Street gathering in last Friday’s rain. There was anger by market traders over the Labour mayor’s absence.

Conservatives were concerned at loss of social housing with the regeneration.

The People’s Alliance candidate acknowledged whoever was elected mayor on Thursday “should make sure Harca submit a plan that addresses the problems” including capping shop rents and service charges and providing car-parking for shoppers.

Poplar Harca promised it won’t increase shop rents “while the work is going on and 12 months after that”. It pledged to restrict an area for independent market stall traders—but no long-term guarantee for the shops. Over time it expects “businesses and rents to improve” as market people see the value.

A no car scheme is “a requirement of local and national planning policy,” it insisted in a statement to the Advertiser today. A service yards will be available for customer collections and drop offs, but there won’t be customer parking.

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