A legal judgment has left the future of Shepherd’s Bush Market looking very uncertain. Orion bought the market from Transport for London in 2014 and wanted to include an ugly block of flats in a redevelopment scheme.
There were valid objections that the proposed scheme (pictured) would have changed the traditional character of the market. There was also a legal challenge over the use of compulsory purchase. This has been upheld so it looks as though the developers will have to go back to the drawing board.
Inevitably with such schemes, flats are described as “luxury” or “affordable” – often the “luxury” flats are not all that luxurious and the “affordable” ones aren’t all that affordable.
I have spoken to traders who support and oppose the scheme. It is needlessly unattractive. On the other hand we clearly need to increase the housing supply and to regenerate Shepherd’s Bush Market which has been in a state of slow decay for decades.
We are told that the Council will “work with the Orion Shepherd’s Bush Ltd (the Market freeholder owner), the market traders and other interested parties to deliver the sympathetic regeneration of the Market which will improve the facilities for the market traders and customers, while maintaining the Market’s unique identity which is so well loved by Londoners.”
That sounds fine and dandy but how much longer can the Market survive? How many of those who “love” the Market do so enough to turn up and buy stuff from it?
Richard Olsen of Orion says that the number of shoppers has halved since 2009 and in the 11 months to last May, the number of visitors fell by almost a quarter, from 434,279 to 324,649. He adds:
“We don’t want to gentrify, we want to build around the existing traders, most of whom are very good. But we do want to spend more money on publicising and marketing it — a lot of people don’t even know it’s there.
“Without change the future is very difficult. I do understand where the traders are coming from, it is not just us and them — we should be working collaboratively. If it does fall over and it doesn’t work out then I’m not sure who wins.”
He’s got a point, hasn’t he? Even if you don’t like his choice of architect.
I’m all for a sympathetic regeneration scheme which includes new homes and uses traditional architecture and that allows the Market to thrive commercially for the long term. But we need to get on with it.
“Luxury” and “affordable” are unfortunate euphemisms. I wish we could just talk about “market price” and “subsidised” homes instead – this is the plain fact of the matter.
I go to the market about once a month but have never been counted. The “visitors fell by about a quarter” is fiction, quite unprovable, nor have I seen any less traders there and this is over more than 50 years.