MARKET TRADER, MARCH 29 - APRIL 11, 2019
– including flick knives subject of a previous moral panic back in the fifties.) I worry that if this bunch of incidents continues the knife crime moral panic will get a second wind and the powers that be may well hamstring us with pointless and restrictive legislation. Forgetting of course that knifes don’t commit crimes people do. And pretty well everybody has access to the kitchen drawer. Trouble is moral panics
don’t give time for sober reflection – that’s why they are so dangerous.
Oh What Time it Takes!
Yes agreed I did let myself go a bit about Wards Corner in the last issue but really – when someone is prepared to invest serious money in a market and it takes eleven years to get nowhere one really does sit back with some astonishment. Since I began covering
London for this paper every major market regeneration project seems to have become embroiled in similar travails – and I say nothing about councils outside the capital taking each other through the courts in similar costly disputes over market redevelopments either. Take Queens which I
first covered in 2005 when Newham Mayor Robin Wales gave me I think the only interview he ever did on the matter. St Modwen was the preferred developer. All
stallholders were promised space plus, amongst other things, right of stall assignment in a total of 160 pitches and 54 shop units (later revised to 165 pitches and 49 shops) in a scheme valued at £75 million promising ‘striking architectural designs’. After two years of pretty continuous campaigning by traders and local supporters who all along favoured refurbishment rather than replacement came revised plans for the regeneration which St Modwen claim answered all the concerns raised, only for Boris Johnson to reject the tall building housing part of the scheme. In 2010 St. Modwen withdrew from project , London Director Tim Seddon said: “After five years of working in partnership and significant capital investment, it has not proved possible to reach agreement with Newham Council on how to progress our revised proposals.” That was five years wasted
a shorter time than Shepherds Bush where proposals for a new market as part of a mixed use development emerged in June 2009. This one journeyed through the courts on a Compulsory Purchase Order as well as planning. Yet it is even longer, 2007 or twelve years, that London assembly members in their market enquiry, gave voice to trader dissatisfaction with their situation on the gaff.
This scheme attracted
widespread opposition and when the council changed political control that backing disappeared as well. In 2016 developer Orion Shepherds Bush Ltd abandoned its proposed project – and the temporary market built alongside which has only this year found a use. Three ambitious schemes
only one of which survives with no certainty of anything happening even yet. Now I’m not taking sides
here – the campaigning groups opposing each plan were sincere in their arguments and often right (if in some cases a tad naive). Trader concerns – usually around fears of rising rents and dislocation during construction – were genuine enough. And to be frank in all three cases stall-holders were given too little consideration at the early stages. At Queens every foot that could be put wrong was indeed put wrong. No my real beef is with the
time it all takes, no one seems to be able to move faster than snails pace. Especially the courts and the planning process. And planning law gives everybody so many excuses to ‘have a go’. The Shep- herds Bush judgement was a largely opaque miasma of acronyms, planning guidance requirements, plans and strat- egies, impact statements and goodness knows what else. I think I’m right in saying that
...but traders were clear about what they wanted from day one
the judge concluded that a supplementary planning guidance document wasn’t required for the project as it was superseded by a local development plan but – had such a document been avail- able it would carry no weight! (Nurse the screens please!) Yet in the Shepherds Bush
case judge was clear that “Planning judgment belongs to the decision-maker, not to the court. The court will not interfere with a decision- maker’s planning judgment unless an error of law has been made.” If councils are scrupulous then they should always win in court. Worse it all costs so much
time and money. The hearings for this case took place in July
2013, the judgement came out almost three months later – but things were still stalled awaiting the result of another enquiry this time by a planning inspector who had to decide whether the council had correctly used compulsory purchase orders. A simple “Would it be
on balance a good thing if project x was allowed to take place? Yes/No?” has gone. Replacing it we now have: does project x comply with guidance a, strategy b, plan c and the views of old Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all? No! Damn well make sure it does before you even decide to make a decision. If we need Town and Country planning regulation
– and as I get older I am increasingly convinced that on balance we probably don’t – it has to be reduced to a quick and simple process that stops the really bone- brained and undesirable scheme. A process that allows campaigners to be heard with some assurance that they’ll be listened to while imposing a time limit on decision making. A procedure that can be measured in weeks rather than years. This industry needs all
the investment it can get and it can’t afford to see potential schemes delayed while money that should go into infrastructure merely goes into the pockets of QCs and the like.
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