Queen's Market is next to Upton Park underground station, in Newham, East London. The market is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and has eighty stalls and sixty shops. It is a lifeline to people on low income: it sells fresh fruit and vegetables at low prices. The market is a hundred years old and it caters for the area’s diverse ethnic populations. A report by NEF illustrated the significant social and economic benefits of the market. See also the campaign's website.
All this was threatened by Newham Concil's plan to long-lease the market to developers St Modwens. St Modwens planned to bring in an Asda, but Asda pulled out of the project in June 2006. However the developers have not pulled out yet and at essence the plans remain the same. The market will not be safe until St Modwens pull out as well.
Developers plan to destroy the small shops round the market and the five units of social housing at the back and build shopping units, a library and service centre and 214 flats. The Council still claim that every stallholder will have a pitch in whatever space will remain but refuse to give measurements, and have not retracted their statement that the market “suffers from a proliferation of certain uses such as meat sales and fruit and vegetables”! The livelihoods of the traders would be put at risk from high service charges and the long disruption of building work as well. This happened at Edmonton Green, a nearby market in North London in the hands of St Modwens. The traders would also be competing with national chains for unit space.
As regards the rest of the development, there is already a library, a service centre and a Tesco store within five minutes walk of the market. The flats are to be sold at “market value” rather than providing social/affordable housing. Newham residents will get the first option to buy - but this is a low-income area, and the flats are on a prime site, in an Olympic borough. They will fetch millions in the current property market, and are of course is what is driving the development.
The campaign also grabbed headlines in local and national press, on radio and TV, and featured in a feature film about Asda - Wal-Mart. The group held a fundraising event at West Ham United's football ground Upton Park and found that many football fans had heard of the market and backed the campaign (see press coverage for more information). Campaigners also presented a Valentines Day card to market shopkeepers to show how much the market was loved (see press coverage for more information).
Research showed that the development was not welcome. The East London Community Organisation (TELCO) including local trades unions, churches and mosques held a month long consultation with over 5000 Newham people, which found in December 2005 that the majority did not want an Asda in their market. In May 2006 the New Economics Foundation published a report on Queens Market highlighting the threat posed to the economic and social value of the market by the development and suggesting that it could be run as a social enterprise.
Top tips from Friends of Queen’s Market:
have regular open planning meetings so everyone is in the picture
don’t expect everyone to have an email address: be prepared to pay for calls to mobiles to contact your supporters and build the campaign
use the local press
don’t dismiss wacky ideas for action: it’s better to let campaign members be creative, they will lose heart if you pour cold water on them
be patient with fellow campaigners because the bigger the campaign gets the more likely that some of them will drive you crazy!