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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

East London traders demand fair treatment amid Watney market’s £2.8 million makeover

An East London trader has complained about the relocation of his stall while major refurbishment works take place at Watney Market because he says the area has ‘no passing trade’. From Wednesday, January 24 until May 2024, Watney Market in Tower Hamlets is undergoing a £2.8million makeover which will see improvements to the market and the underground car park to make life easier for traders.

Traders have been temporarily relocated to sites on Commercial Road and near Tarling Street and Watney Street, which is close to Shadwell Station. However Patrick Heath, who has been a trader at Watney Market for 30 years, claims he won’t be able to make a living on Commercial Road and has demanded traders are given discounted rent while they are temporarily relocated.

Mr Heath told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “There’s no passing trade, the only passing trade there is, is if you’re on a bus, the annoying thing about it is we’re paying full rent and on February 5 it’s going up. All that we’re asking for is to be treated like human beings, this [relocation] has been going on for six to seven weeks, maybe longer, it started in November and this week is the first time we’ve had any consultation with the council since they sent us the email about moving.”

He added: “They’re great with sending emails but when you request a meeting with them, they don’t want to see you. We’re not asking for a [long-term] reduction in rent, but just while we’re down there, just to make life a little easier for the traders.” The LDRS understands that traders met in person with the council’s markets manager to discuss the plans and listen to their concerns and will be asking traders for their feedback while refurbishment takes place.

The council has said that traders will still have access to the service and storage areas and said Commercial Road is a high-footfall area. Tower Hamlets mayor, Lutfur Rahman said the refurbishment works have been moved to January due to the scope of the project and needing to avoid busy trading periods.

Cllr Rahman said: “We greatly appreciate the cooperation of our residents, business owners and market traders during the works period. We recognise that these works will cause some disruption to the local area however, they are set to significantly improve the market concourse and underground car park, increase community safety, and reduce antisocial behaviour in the area – creating a welcoming destination for residents, traders and visitors alike.”

He added: “Our contractors are also committed to ensuring a safe and secure site to minimise as much disruption as possible. I strongly encourage our residents to continue to shop in their locality, whether that be at the market stalls in their new locations, or at the shops which will remain open. I look forward to seeing the progress of the works and visiting the area once they are complete.”

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