The recent news that Hackney Council will take on the management of part of the Shopping Village in Ridley Road is welcomed and was only made possible by the campaign led by Save Ridley Road. Community organising works, yet this has gone unrecognised by the council. The future for the artists, who currently occupy the other part of the building, is still uncertain whilst the council move their Market Services office onto part of the first floor, taking the space of six artist studios. There is still work to do to ensure a safe, thriving, inclusive future for Ridley Road and Dalston.
After years of organising a grass-roots, inclusive and creative campaign, Save Ridley Road – backed by Hackney Green Party – can celebrate an important victory. The ground and basement floors of Ridley Road shopping village have been saved from development and will be in place for at least a further seven years as the council takes on the management of part of the building.
This is fantastic news. The shopping village is inseparable from the market and shops of Ridley Road. Protecting the shopping village means that people from all cultures are able to live happily in Hackney, knowing that they can provide and find products that are important to them.
Community organising works. We’ve seen this before in Dalston, when campaigners – again supported by the Hackney Green Party – saved the Eastern Curve Garden from becoming a through-fare as part of the council’s Dalston Quarter Plans. The Hackney Green Party also supported the campaign to stop a development which would have overshadowed the garden. The council backed down in the face of local campaigners and has now finally pledged to protect the Eastern Curve Garden, also recognising the importance of sunlight for the garden.
Time and again, local people have spoken and acted to save the community assets important to them. Hackney has a rich history of campaigning which should be celebrated. Yet, when Mayor Glanville and his cabinet discussed the plans for the shopping village at a recent council meeting, there was absolutely no mention or recognition of the Save Ridley Road campaign.
Save Ridley Road formed in 2018 in response to the initial threat to the development of the shopping village, which would have seen the building turned into a supermarket, offices and luxury flats. Whilst the council were accepting that the closure of this crucial part of the market was a done deal, people (artists, residents, traders) and organisations were pulling together in solidarity with the community in the shopping village.
The uncertainty since 2018 has been extremely unsettling for traders and artists in the shopping village, who haven’t known what has been happening. This great article by Novara Media, featuring my fellow Save Ridley Road campaigners and people from the market, gives a really good insight into what life has been like for traders.
At the cabinet meeting on 24 January this year, Mayor Glanville raised concerns about the condition of the basement used to store market stock and the ground floor. These concerns have been raised with the council for years and should have been addressed ages ago; the poor conditions have been really challenging for traders and the ground floor is now only partially occupied. This is a classic tactic pulled by developers: running buildings into disrepair and then using this as evidence to demolish and redevelop the building.
Another omission at the council meeting was the decision for the council’s market services to now occupy space on the first floor – space which is currently occupied by artists. The council office space will take up the equivalent of 6 studios (for up to 18 artists). Save Ridley Road have been objecting to any plans to develop the upper floors into offices and luxury flats since 2018 – the artists are an integral part of the market, and any low-rent artist space should be protected. In late 2021, artists were served with an eviction notice to leave the studios by the start of March 2022. An artist collective has formed, supported by Save Ridley Road, to negotiate a deal with the landlord to stay on, occupying at least the second floor. Finding out the council were going to be taking space on the first floor, whilst the future of the artists is still uncertain, has been hugely disappointing.
So what needs to happen now?
Beyond the shopping village, the £1m investment from the Mayor of London and Hackney Council to develop the market has been welcomed, but doesn’t address some key issues on the market. Toilets need to be provided and structural issues addressed (gutters, leaks etc). The proposed food area could be a success but there are currently concerns from food providers in the market who don’t want to move location. Save Ridley Road will keep listening to traders and advocating for the changes they need.
With the Dalston Plan development looming – including plans to provide 500 new homes on the shopping centre site – there is going to be a lot more we need to do to make sure that traders, artists, local shops and current residents aren’t pushed out of Dalston.
In short, this is a battle against gentrification.
A Green Council will put the needs of people before the demands of developers and protect what is important to residents, local traders, local enterprises and artists. Developers will not call the shots in a Green Council; we will give priority to the lives and livelihoods of those who live and work here in plans for what happen here.
The fight continues to Save Ridley Road.I encourage you to shop in the market, chat to traders and follow @SaveRidleyRoad so you know when you’ll be needed to join further action.
In the words of the Save Ridley Road campaign… “’Save Ridley Road’ is not something one campaign group can do. It’s not in the power of Hackney Council either. It’s what can be achieved by a whole community coming together and fighting for a vision of our city different to the one imposed on us by developers.”