Andrew Gilligan

Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Market: Hospital may get rid of even more stalls

July 15, 2010 by  

GREENWICH Hospital’s issuing the food stalls in the market with notice to quit has prompted an outcry. But it may be only the first part of the Hospital’s plan to undermine the market in order to clear the way for its redevelopment.

Traders believe that the Hospital’s new managing agents, Nelson Bakewell, are considering adopting a proposal with which they did considerable damage to another market they managed, Covent Garden. After the food stalls go, this website has been told, the Hospital is considering getting rid of all stalls which sell “manufactured” goods. In other words, only people who make their own wares will be allowed to remain. (The second-hand day won’t be affected.)

Between 20 and 40 permanent stalls – out of around 90 – would go, and a similar proportion of the casual traders. A committee may be drawn up to decide which traders are “creative” enough to remain and which need to be ejected.

You can see a sort of purist, idealist logic in this – making it a truly “craft” market. It’s true that there’s a certain amount of tourist-targeted tat in the place at the moment. But in the end it displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the mix that is needed to make a market successful. It also risks quite a seriously large number of empty spaces if the hoped-for creative geniuses do not materialise.

The Hospital has dropped Urban Space, the manager which revived the market to its present pitch of success. Nelson Bakewell, the new agents, have decided, in the words of one source, that what they want from the market is greater “predictability” – of income and takings, which of course also equates to greater predictability of content. Hay’s Galleria, here we come!

“They say they can predict the shops, but not the stalls,” said one source. “They want to look at a spreadsheet and know what’s going to happen, but successful markets don’t work like that. You’ve got to be more flexible and more creative.”

The Hospital and Nelson Bakewell have also parted company with two key people running the market – Shaun Hose, a consultant engaged to draw up a “creative vision” for it after councillors rejected the redevelopment plan last year, and Patrycja Nowak, the market manager inherited from Urban Space. Both resigned over what other sources say was their concern about the direction in which the new management was taking the market.

“I simply do not believe they know what they are doing,” said one person closely involved with the market. “We have been waiting for months for them to tell us what their vision is for the stalls part of the market and we still don’t know. I think the problem is that they don’t know themselves.”

The Hospital not knowing what it is doing would be one possibility. But the other possibility is that they know exactly what they’re doing. I’ll cover the Hospital’s new, revised plans for the redevelopment – now being considered by the Planning Appeals Inspectorate – in more detail in next week’s column. But, just as in the plan that was rejected, it appears – and our sources confirm – the floorspace available for the market stalls and their associated storage will be less than it is now, even without the demands the proposed new hotel is likely to impose on that same, limited floorspace.

Less space implies, of course, fewer stalls. But if lots of the stalls have already been chucked off, they won’t be in a position to complain about the redevelopment. And the quieter the market becomes, the less justification there is for not redeveloping it.

The eviction of the food stalls is blamed by all our sources on Greenwich’s second least-favourite institution, after the Hospital, Frank Dowling’s Inc Group. Dowling – all our sources say – demanded that the food stalls be removed because they were damaging the trade of his pubs and restaurants.

I can quite understand the deadly peril for Frank’s third-rate catering empire of having to compete for business with outlets that might be quite good – though Frank, it should be said, last night denied to me that he’d made any such demand over the food stalls and “didn’t even know” they were going.

But whatever motivated it, the moves on the market appears to be part of a wider agenda. Just as I described in my previous column with the shops, Greenwich Hospital appears to be hollowing out the retail core of the town to reduce resistance to its still overbearing and inappropriate redevelopment plans. As I’ll explain next week, I have a feeling it’s not going to work.

PS – Sorry about the long gap since the last column. I’ve been on holiday – back regularly now!

Comments

20 Responses to “Andrew Gilligan: Greenwich Market: Hospital may get rid of even more stalls”

  1. Indigo on July 15th, 2010 9:38 am

    Instead of allowing itself to be browbeaten by Frank Dowling (allegedly), I do urge Greenwich Hospital to update its business plan to factor in the “pain” of the austerity that everyone is going to have to endure for the next five years, in order to recover from the mess the last government left behind. Nearly everyone’s standard of living will be worse than it was before the recession. Increased taxation, direct and indirect, will mean less disposable income for meals out in restaurants (Frank’s included). This is already happening – a friend of mine closed her Thai restaurant more than a year ago because of the effects of the recession on her business – see also the increase in sales of take-away pizzas (because so many people have forgotten or never learned how to cook from scratch).

    Food stalls have greater flexibility and fewer overheads and are a good “fit” with the large section of the population that “grazes” rather than having set times for sit-down meals.

  2. Paul on July 15th, 2010 12:00 pm

    As you may be aware, the Hospital are also pressuring retailers in the shops on the square to move out.

    What I infer from this is that they think it will help their case to show empty units within the market, to help convince the inspector the central area needs ‘improving.’

  3. Will on July 15th, 2010 1:31 pm

    Cracking article Andrew, and thank you for being brave enough to put names to the various supposed guilty parties.

    I am very much looking forward to reading why you think it will fail, becuase I also think they know exactly what they are doing. I fear that there is too much money at stake for them to be getting this wrong inadvertantly.

    I don’t think this is about showing the Inspectorate empty stalls (becuase it’s now on public record that the stalls are currently full) – I suspect it’s about charging more, much more, for those pitches

  4. j garcia on July 15th, 2010 1:35 pm

    Please sign our online petition to protest against the closure of the current food court. http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/foodcourt/
    Thanks to Andrew for highlighting the traders’ predicament and to the 2000 visitors who signed the physical petition in the market last weekend. The fight continues, please support us.

  5. Anon on July 15th, 2010 1:40 pm

    Does anyone have any actual proof of Inc’s involvement or are these just the wild accusations of some disgruntled traders?

  6. Indigo on July 15th, 2010 6:34 pm

    Anon, 1.40pm, are you new around here?

  7. the watchman on July 15th, 2010 8:04 pm

    Of course he’s not…….it has to be the man himself!!!

  8. Megad on July 16th, 2010 7:18 am

    This whole business has a smell about it. The market needs an improvement plan and with the monstrous destruction plan still hanging over it, its not happening. There are unattractive areas just next to the central market that could be developed for food stalls but that’s not going to happen until the the scheme is finally buried. The rejected plan must have cost a large amount in money and bruised egos and that’s going to weigh on the market for years. Watch Andrew’s excellent column for more trouble ahead – and sign the petition!

  9. Darren on July 16th, 2010 7:51 pm

    Greenwich is beginning to look like one big building site. Cutty Sark still enveloped, pathway next to Cutty Sark roped off so that vehicles can get to the Pier (which has been closed off for ages), front bit by the Pier (where Tiger Moth used to live) roped off, museum works on-going and most of the shops around the market hidden by scaffolding. I realise that 2012 is not far off, but some of us live here and would like some semblance of normality prior to the big event.

    Goodness knows what the tourists make of it all.

  10. everyfaceonthedeck on July 16th, 2010 10:40 pm

    Greenwich Hospital is taking the market and the surrounding trade in the area apart piece by piece, it’s painful to watch and we’ve all got front row seats. Give the greedy bastards their hotel! And then what..?

  11. Andreas Bork on July 17th, 2010 9:19 am

    What does the council have to say in this?

    Should there not be a plan covering say the next
    5-10 years, where all angles are taken into
    account?

  12. Paul T on July 17th, 2010 4:06 pm

    Andreas, the whole plan from the Hospital Trust is to ensure the Council, and local residents, don’t get a say in the matter. They’ve persuaded the Inspector to consider a revised plan, in a cynical move which ensures our elected representatives – who in this instance at least are right on the money – don’t have any say over the market redevelopment.

    If you want to voice your objections to this, turn up Woolwich Town Hall on 7 September.

  13. Ged A on July 18th, 2010 6:49 pm

    I’m amazed that, in a time of economic downturn, thriving small businesses can be effectively snuffed out to satisfy the greed of landlords. Actually, I’m not surprised at all- it’s been happening all over the UK for decades now. The result of which is communities diminished or lost altogether and the homogenization of the British high street (or what’s left of it).
    The successful small family business should be a sacred thing- especially in these times. I personally know people affected by the food area proposals and they are devastated- it’s taken them a long time to establish themselves in the market and cannot simply start again somewhere else.

  14. Darren on July 20th, 2010 7:16 pm

    I understand that if we wish to comment on the amendments made by Greenwich Hospital Estates we need to write to Alan Ridley of the Planning Inspectorare by 30th July. Greenwich Hospital Estates appear to have hired the services of Drivers Jonas Deloitte but I am afraid our household cant afford such luxuries. Can anyone advise whether there are specific issues we need to target when making our comments – other than the fact that we are happy with the cobbles as they are and really dont see any value in an additional hotel.

  15. Greenwich Council snubs pedestrianisation meeting « 853 on July 21st, 2010 11:49 am

    [...] are worrying times in Greenwich – the place looks like a building site, the bullying tactics around the market, and Greenwich University’s plans for the old Stockwell Street market are underwhelming (and [...]

  16. urban_fox on July 22nd, 2010 2:40 pm

    I’m sad to hear of the closure of the food court. I lived up until recently in Woolwich and often frequented Greenwich Market. My boyfriend and I love the market and are both sad to hear of the state of affairs it finds itself in. I’m actually quite miffed at the tactics of the Hospital and their assisting company as well as the possible intervention from the local bar owner. What happened to healthy competition? If the food in the restaurants was better than the food court surely they would get the trade?

    I digress. I would be very sad to see the market be slimmed down and eventually overhauled. I have seen it happen with other markets and generally they are not that great after. Camden is possibly the only exception however I somehow doubt the hospital is planning on making Greenwich market a southern competitor for Camden.

    Sad times – I can only hope enough people get behind petitions and make objections so Greenwich may retain the gem that is it’s market.

  17. Megad on July 25th, 2010 11:10 pm

    It would be helpful to have the address to write to protest against all this. Its all gone very quiet which worries me. Have signed petition and will not put my business with chains until the small traders are offered a better alternative and an alternative proposal for the market future is in place! Power the people (sixties) – Big Society (2010!!).

  18. Pete on August 6th, 2010 4:11 am

    I don’t go to Greenwich that often but I went there for the first time in years about `18 months ago and was thrilled to find one of the best set of food stalls I’ve come across n London. I’ve been back there four times since, and even go out of my way to go there to eat if I have to go to Canary Wharf. But yesterday I was flabbergasted to find be told some genius wanted to close it down!

    I used to work next to Spitalfields market and cannot believe how what used to be a fantastic set of restaurants and food stalls there has been turned into an overpriced desert of rotten chain stores. For two decades I lived in Islington. which redevelopment’ has managed to not only completely kill in character, but also kill commercially. Its ‘new’ shopping centre is now half deserted with some of its biggest shops standing empty. Its world famous Camden passage antiques market, a magnet for tourists across the world largely ‘moved on’ and replaced by a ‘Jack Wills’, which believe me will not be bringing globetrotting tourists coming back!.

    Not only the people of Greenwich but also the BUSINESS people of Greenwich need to be woken up to the fact that this sort of thing is disasterous. If Greenwich Hospital Trust values the ‘value’ of its real estate it needs to boot out the management behind this idiocy, and as citizens we all need to stand up and be counted if creative, hardworking and unique small business owners are not to be driven out by dull-wittted, lazy and unimaginative chain stores.

  19. j garcia on August 9th, 2010 10:15 pm

    Thank you to everyone who has signed the online petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/foodcourt/ and to those 8400 who have done so in the market in the last four weeks. It’s unbelievable that just when London has decided that fresh cooked urban street food is the way to go, Greenwich Hospital Trust has decided that the safer revenue of Costa, Pizza Express, Pret & Starbucks is a better bet.

  20. megad on August 11th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Its up to us. Use the market and keep up the pressure on bungling Greenwich ‘Hospital’ management to ‘meet the people’ to find a scheme that regenerates the market without destroying it! There are dead spaces that could be better used and lets also hope that if the road scheme progresses, some ‘spill out’ of stalls will be possible. By the way, doesn’t the ‘garden’ area around the Cutty Sark look awful!