The fight for Shepherd's Bush Market reached the House of Commons last week, when MP Andy Slaughter raised the matter of Eric Pickles (Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) rejecting a planning inspector's recommendation to not go ahead with a compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the site.
Background: the previous Hammersmith and Fulham council (the Conservative majority was ousted in favour of Labour earlier this year) agreed to let developers Orion, with Development Securities, refurbish the market and build around 200 new flats. The current market does need a spruce up, having fallen into a certain amount of disrepair over the years that the site was owned by Transport for London. A planning inspector wrote a comprehensive assessment of the situation in February 2014 (though it wasn't released until October), which acknowledged the Orion scheme is the only one that can viably fund the necessary work.
However, the inspector also criticised Orion for not attempting to talk to traders and buy their businesses, and "will now benefit from these businesses via the CPO. It stands to reap considerable rewards, while the traders will lose out in terms of current financial value of the businesses and future prospects". She could not see that there were enough safeguards in place to protect traders, finding:
"a real risk that the market and replacement Goldhawk Road shops would not provide the ethnic diversity, independent or small scale retailing environment central to the appeal of this part of the town centre. While such uncertainties exist, the personal losses and widespread interference of private interests arising from confirmation of the Order cannot be justified."
The inspector advised against the CPO. But Eric Pickles thinks differently:
"The Secretary of State considers that sufficient safeguards are in place to ensure that regeneration of the market to create a vibrant mixed use town centre development will be achieved and that existing Market traders and shopkeepers or new operators with similarly qualitative and diverse offerings will be protected."
He's allowing the CPO to go ahead.
The development will create 194 flats, 13 mews style houses and five 'live/work' units — none of which will be 'affordable', after the previous council administration accepted Orion's assertion that if they had to upgrade the market, they'd have to sell all the residential properties at full market value. We can assume the new residents will be young professionals, probably renting flats snapped up by investors attracted by Orion's spiel about it being such a "'cool location to be part of". No wonder Slaughter characterised the future of Shepherd's Bush Market as being one of "chain stores, bijou stalls selling scented candles and the like"; it's the worst aspect of gentrification, when it's assumed the middle classes won't want to walk through stalls selling things the local community actually needs, like cheap food and household items.
A temporary market area is about to be established for stallholders, but as for the shops... Several owners were cited by the planning inspector as not being able to identify or afford temporary premises for the three years the works will take. Cookes Pie and Mash shop will be no more: the owners have accepted a payout (they're reaching retirement age anyway; it's understandable that they've walked away).
There's also a parallel with what's happening in Tottenham, where a massive regeneration project will move the market from Wards Corner. Local businesses say an expected tripling of rents will force them to the wall — not a problem for your Costas, Prets and Sainsbury's Locals, of course, and one more step in the blanding-down homogenisation of our local high streets. Much like in Tottenham, Orion has said Shepherd's Bush traders will be 'invited back', but rents could easily be more than they can afford — particularly since the Conservatives' vision for the market was for it to become like Spitalfields.