Many of London’s “non-essential” retail outlets have been re-opening, but sadly not the Seven Sisters indoor market, dubbed by some the “Latin Village”. The market space, which houses several small businesses run by women of Colombian origin or descent within the Edwardian “Wards Corner” building, has been the focus of a sustained and often outrageously misreported campaign to prevent its redevelopment under a legal agreement between Haringey Council and developer Grainger made in 2007. Plans are still in place for the traders to move to a temporary site on the other side of Seven Sisters Road and later return to a new one in a new building on the market’s current spot. But trading cannot re-commence in the current market space for the time being.
The reason? The company that has been managing the market, Market Asset Management (MAM), concluded it was no longer in a financial position to run it and has declared itself insolvent. In a statement, MAM said “trader debt covering rent and utilities, even before the lockdown were unsustainable” and that “enforcement of electrical safety regulations within trader spaces and the prevention of the unauthorised and unsafe use of mezzanine floors and unlawful occupation of stalls were similarly frustrated”. MAM nonetheless added: “We firmly believe that if we had been allowed to operate the market using normal commercial operating practices without unwelcome interference, the market would be able to continue to trade.”
MAM had become a target for an aggressive political campaign to “save” the market in its present form, encouraged by a Guardian columnist, various other journalists, some Haringey Labour councillors and the opposition Liberal Democrats. The impression was created that the traders were united in their opposition to the plans of developer Grainger to regenerate the area, when in fact there have long been sharp differences of opinion among them about the future of the market. In February, a group of traders (see photograph) spoke of their displeasure with the “save” campaign and their own hopes for the future.
Now, Transport for London, which owns the land on which the market presently stands – it is next to and above Seven Sisters station – intends to acquire the market lease, probably in the next ten days, and go about finding a new operator to run the market, both in its present location and its future ones. There are, however, the health and safety issues mentioned in the MAM statement to be addressed first: both the gas and electricity systems are in need of major overhauls. The good news for traders is that TfL can be expected to draw a line under rent and other arrears, in line with the relief announced for other small traders on TfL sites across the capital for the first two quarters of this financial year.
Work has resumed on the temporary market site across the road – it will be on the ground floor of a new residential building – and to work with the traders on making a success of the move. Despite a string of media reports to the contrary, many of them have long been in favour of the re-location plan. TfL’s aim is get the old market in a safe state to re-open and under new management as soon as possible. The new temporary location, though work on it has been delayed by the impact of the virus, is expected to be ready to receive them within twelve months.
Photograph by Omar Jan.
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