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Traders revolt against Town Hall market charges

PUBLISHED: 22:34 22 May 2008 | UPDATED: 13:19 05 October 2010

TRADERS are in revolt in a London street market against Town Hall bureaucrats over service charge bills. Rows over health and safety and access problems became so bitter that traders started withholding rent from their landlord.

By Michael Parker

TRADERS are in revolt in a London street market against Town Hall bureaucrats over service charge bills.

Rows over health and safety and access problems became so bitter that traders started withholding rent from their landlord.

Now the shopkeepers in Poplar’s Chrisp Street market in London’s East End are facing court action by Tower Hamlets council to reclaim thousands of pounds of unpaid rent and insurance bills.

They want a break-down of the bills and claim they don’t get the services for the service charges being demanded—but so far the authority has not been able to provide the information, according to the shopkeepers.

One trader, Ammar Hasanie, who runs a DIY shop, got a demand for £18,000.

“So many people including the District Auditor have looked into this over four years and we’ve had no answers,” he said.

“Our MP said the council should be able to give an account within 10 days.

“But they can’t—because they haven’t kept their books.”

Tower Hamlets is seeking unpaid back rent from Mr Hasanie between February, 2006, and September, 2007, according to the court notice he received this week.

But the authority sold the market estate to Poplar Harca housing trust in September, 2006—in the middle of the charge’ period.

The shopkeepers have been locked in a battle with the Town Hall for four years now.

The traders’ association claims the service charges vary from lease to lease, from nil to £300 to £3,000 a year, with the council “failing to provide any service” for the money.

The Town Hall has refused to open its books and reveal the market accounts to the traders, despite a visit from the District Auditor in 2006.

A health and safety report on Chrisp Street by Poplar Harca after it took over in 2006 revealed the market was in a poor condition or in some areas “dreadful condition.”

michael.parker@archant.co.uk


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