Mass demo planned by Poplar traders in bid to halt Chrisp Street Market development
PUBLISHED: 22:37 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 00:29 25 July 2018
Traders are planning a second mass protest to stop a major redevelopment of Poplar’s Chrisp Street Market when it goes before Tower Hamlets Council on Tuesday.
It follows their last demo at the town hall in February when councillors deferred the application by Poplar Harca Housing organisation and later an open air protest meeting in the market square in the run-up to May’s local elections.
They fear being “priced out” of their shops and stalls or face going under if they stay because there is no car-parking in the new scheme which would discourage customers.
Meanwhile, housing campaigners are furious that social housing is being reduced to 35 per cent and plan to join the traders’ protest at the council’s strategic planning committee.
But there was also fury at a news-conference the traders held today in Whitechapel over an MP’s unprecedented letter to planning panel members, all Labour, urging them to pass the application—while at the same time a People’s Alliance councillor has been barred from the Chrisp Street vote because she campaigned during the elections against the scheme.
Around 500 traders and housing activists are likely to turn up on Tuesday evening for the planning meeting, the ‘Save Chrisp Street Market’ campaign anticipates.
Campaign organiser Ammar Hasanie, who has run his DIY store in the market for 15 years, is furious at MP Jim Fitzpatrick’s letter to Labour councillors urging them to pass the scheme.
“It’s putting pressure on Labour councillors to make sure they agree with this planning application,” he told the East London Advertiser.
“We approached him weeks ago when he told us as an MP he can’t get involved in a local planning matter.
“The mayor has also said he can’t intervene, yet councillors tell us they’re facing immense pressure ‘from above’ to pass this scheme.”
The MP’s ‘House of Commons’-headed letter, acquired by the Advertiser, says: “I strongly believe that new social and mixed tenure of homes and an update to the retail offer and new leisure facilities will be of benefit to my constituents.”
Traders are furious that while Jim Fitzpatrick has written to Labour council members, opposition councillor Rabina Khan is being ejected from the planning panel, after Tower Hamlets legal monitoring officers advised that she would not have “an open mind”.
The traders say the same principal should now apply to all Labour members who now occupy every place on the planning committee who received the MP’s letter urging them to pass the scheme.
“All Rabina did was listen to people during the election campaign,” Mr Hasanie insists.
“It wasn’t a conflict of interest—she doesn’t own a business in the market, nor does her family, nor would she benefit financially or feel any impact by this development.
“She is supporting us, like any councillor standing up for those who elect them. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”
But the rules are that planning committee members should only decide a scheme from evidence at the meeting, today’s press conference was told.
Critics say the MP’s note to his Labour colleagues who decide strategic planning matters now throws a spanner in the works. They are planning a legal challenge over Cllr Khan’s suspension.
But Tory opposition group leader Andrew Wood, invited to addressed the traders’ meeting, told the Advertiser: “There’s nothing illegal about Jim Fitzpatrick’s letter—but it was unusual, the first time I’ve seen him do that.
“Nobody is against Chrisp Street redevelopment, but there are elements in the viability report that people don’t agree with, like housing and not providing car-parking for shoppers.
“Poplar Harca got the land free and have government funding, a combination that means they could afford to provide 50pc social housing, in line with City Hall’s London Plan, not 35pc.
“At the same time, I can’t imagine any major shopping centre without car-parking—even Oxford Street has parking nearby.”
Lack of parking in the scheme is a major worry for the traders who fear they could go out of business if shoppers can’t park, a growing issue for local high streets up and down the country battling to compete with online shopping. Banning car-parking, they fear, could be the last nail in the coffin for Chrisp Street Market.