Thursday, 11 November 2010

Shepherd's Bush Market: Sparks fly at Town Hall

"Shut up" "Pin your ears back and listen" retorted Cllr Greenhalgh, Council Leader and in this setting formal receiver of the two petitions presented to the Cabinet this evening from residents concerned with the proposed redevelopment of Shepherd's Bush Market.

He was talking to Cllr Stephen Cowan, the Leader of the Labour Opposition, who had also turned up for this public meeting, at which there were also roughly 30 people from the Bush, supporting the two speakers.

One of whom, Aniza Meghani, outlined the fears and anger felt by those traders who occupy the Victorian line of shops which are slated to be demolished by the Council in its' "overarching vision" for the Market. She rebuked Cllr Greenhalgh in a passionate defence of the existing Market for having described their appearance as being "poor" and "shabby". No customer in decades had ever made such a remark which had been taken as an insult, she added, before going on to outline the multicultural and niche nature of the current Market. She mocked the Council for saying that officially they had "no plans" but were "consulting" by asking with mock innocence why they had in the same breath already been talking about compulsory purchase orders in order for Orion the developers to move in.

Following this presentation Andrew Frederick gave an impassioned plea for the Council to think again over its plans, as part of the redevelopment, to close a functioning hostel for homeless people with drug and alcohol problems and move them into an old hostel which had been closed in May. The old hostel, Lime Grove, had failed and resulted in numerous run ins between residents and service users - with predictable consequences involving the police on many occasions. He said that to re-open Lime Grove would be to fail both the vulnerable people who need the service but also the residents. All, he said, "so you can build flats all over the Market." He pledged that the residents would "fight the plans with every means at our disposal" but urged the Council to back away and think again. They did not want confrontation, he said.

They were heard in stony silence. Cllr Greenhalgh summarised the presentations briefly and asked his colleagues if they had any questions. His Cabinet colleagues at this point all seemed to develop an intense interest in the desks in front of them and studied them closely, eyes down. None had any questions.

Cllr Greenhalgh then thanked the residents for coming and clearly wanted to close the public meeting. The concerns had been noted he said and would be registered both with council officials and with the developers.

At this point the people in the room, who had travelled to the meeting realised that the Leader was trying to tell them that that was that. Finitto.

This prompted cries of "shame", "disgraceful" and other epithets while the two speakers decided to take matters into their own hands, and start to ask the Council to at least respond to their points. Cllr Greenhalgh refused and reiterated that their concerns would be "noted". Job done. His colleagues were still studying their desks, to a man. And woman.

At this point Cllr Cowan intervened and attacked the process as a sham, urging them to "at least have some questions" for the petitioners who, he said, had travelled through the rain. This sort of treatment was the reason why people didn't believe this Council, he charged.

Decorum at this point broke and Cllr Greenhalgh lost his rag. Urging Cllr Cowan simply to "shut up" he noted that he was very good at talking but not listening. And in fairness in response to accusations of "social cleansing" that were levelled by Ms Meghani he said unequivocally that there was "no desire to engage in social cleansing or displacement of traders" In fact, he said, the proposals were to increase the size of the market. He also said "we do not hike rents" responding to an oft made allegation of what will happen to existing traders in the new market, and even said that they were committed to "retaining the facades of buildings" - which I took to mean the row of shops under threat.

And that was that. A speedy charge down the rest of the agenda which lasted all of one minute, Cllr Greenhalgh asked the guards to "exclude the press and the public" and we found ourselves in the hallway outside.

The mood among traders was a mix of astonishment and anger, in that hall outside. It's clear to me from this meeting that there is unlikely to be any middle ground in the near future between the Council and the current traders of the market. So the likely approach will be another imposed vision in the teeth of local opposition, which is likely to grow. It seems to be the default option for this administration.

All eyes are now on a public meeting taking place on December 1st at the old Shepherd's Bush Library at 6.30pm. Expect more swords to be crossed.

1 comment:

  1. Great God Almighty, you are living under a dictatorship!