Thursday, 21 October 2010

Shepherd's Bush: Legal threats over market

Shepherd’s Bush Market is at war with the Council. The traders, almost to a person, have formed a group so tight and dead set against the Council’s plans to essentially knock it down and start again that there seems no prospect for anything other than an all out fight between the locals and the Town Hall. The traders are still calling on the Council, to use their phrase, to "step back from the brink" but there seems little prospect of this happenning.

I have seen documents and correspondence that make absolutely clear, in tone and content, that relations between the traders and council officials have completely broken down with the traders themselves seeming to have absolutely no confidence whatsoever that they will ever be treated fairly. Dark warnings of legal action cloud the air and it seems that this has forced Council Leader Stephen Greenhalgh to retreat from his original refusal of an invitation to hold a public meeting with the traders, into holding one.

Ever the wily fox, he’s agreed to the meeting so long as it happens after the closing date for the consultation which traders have branded a sham and regard as illegal. The traders have formally requested that the consultation be re-run. To date that request has been ignored.

This is of course the same Cllr Stephen Greenhalgh that professed his “hurt” at some of the comments made by the folk of Hammersmith, who themselves are up in arms at the prospect of King Street being turned into something looking like Las Vegas with soaring blocks of luxury flats and major construction work taking over large parts of Furnival Gardens. (The same park they claimed they were defending against Thames Water)

So what’s going on? Stephen Greenhalgh as we know has form on all things planning and seemed to indicate a face-saving means of retreat in the face of the irate citizens of Hammersmith. He’d even claimed that there were “lessons to be learned” over the way in which his authority had railroaded the people of Goldhawk Road into another planning project against their express will. This, in my view and in the private view of those connected with his campaign, contributed to the conservative candidate at the last General Election failing to unseat Labour MP Andy Slaughter. They even formed mini residents election campaigns to ensure that the Conservatives paid for their behaviour at the polls, and so it proved. The Council then performed a U-Turn on the Ashchurch Grove decision, so it proves that in a battle residents can win.

I have a theory about the difference between the two – you could reasonably say that both the proposed Hammersmith and actual Goldhawk Estate decisions enraged what would otherwise be presumably Conservative inclined populations. That is not true with either the traders or their patrons in Shepherd’s Bush Market – in other words they’re fairly working class. In fact one of the pieces of history set to be swept away by Cllr Greenhalgh is a real life pie & mash shop that has stood there since Victoria sat on the throne, Gawd bless er.

Surely the Council has a point that the Market is a bit tatty and could do with doing up. Transport for London have been the world’s worst landlords by failing to pay for the markets’ upkeep and using cowboy builders when they had to. But if you’re about to change the face of Shepherd’s Bush so fundamentally, and once again you find that the actual people that live and work there are so fundamentally opposed to your plans – shouldn’t you just stop to think about whether you really want to alienate so many more people, even if they are probably not Tory voters?

Given that this is the Shepherd’s Bush Blog, keep checking back for more on this – its likely to be a dominant theme in the weeks and months to come. I would much rather be chronicling a debate rather than a battle but it seems a struggle is what we have. And it all seems very familiar.

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