WHAT fun to see the Greenwich Society keeping its end up as the unofficial ad-man for the market redevelopment. In a letter to my paper, the Standard, its chairman, Tim Barnes, faithfully transcribes several of the developers' standard PR lines, including the untrue claims that the plans have been "extensively consulted on" and that they have 75% support.
To put that into context, I thought that today I would bring you the actual views of the Greenwich Market traders. Unlike, say, the Greenwich Society, I took the trouble to ask them what they thought. And as you will see, only one trader out of the ten I spoke to expressed unequivocal support for the redevelopment. That's 10 per cent - so someone did even worse than Gordon Brown last week!
Michael Brandt, Red Gecko: "I don't actually think it needs demolition. I think it needs a bit of a facelift - if it ain't broken, why fix it? It will be off limits for a long time. These projects never really keep to schedule. [During the construction phase] people will suffer."
Stephen Chong, Greenlands Health Foods: "I can see that some refurbishment is necessary, but not at the expense of changing the whole feeling and ambience of the market. This is unique, there is nothing like it. It's been there 200 years, it's one of the reasons why people come to Greenwich. I can understand the need to refurbish, but not wholesale refurbishment. [The new design] is a bit sterile."
Maria Livings, Lush Designs: "The roof needs replacing but I'm worried it's going to be bland. I'm really anxious [about that] - I would hate the idea that all the stalls were dressed the same. My main concern is that it isn't going to be like Spitalfields. What's happened [there] is sad - it's a bit like a shiny ghost town.
"I don't mind the cobbles. A cobbled floor looks nice. For a town centre [Greenwich] is very scruffy. It could do with a facelift. But it wouldn't take a huge amount of effort - it needs soap and water, not redeveloping."
Mick Gebbett, Hide All: "I think it's probably the right thing to do. We've been here since 1987 and Greenwich Market does need lifting. We have discussed it quite a lot. The biggest concern for me is to make sure it's completed by 2012, that's important."
Rob Toogood, Compendia: "I've got mixed feelings about it. It looks like they're going to apply for planning permission to establish a [temporary market in a] tent down by the pier. It's a well-presented tent with some secure retail units around the outside. It might work out OK - but not necessarily. I do get the feeling that some of the pedestrian flows in Greenwich town centre have not been analysed very well. I'm a little bit concerned that the temporary market is right down from the main drag, away from the park and town centre traffic."
The new permanent market space "could affect the dynamics of the market - the pillars [supporting the roof] are moving into the middle, which will chop up the space a bit. The stallholders have some misgivings, but overall they're quite positive. In terms of the other shopkeepers, certainly several of them are annoyed at the change."
Anonymous shopkeeper: "In my opinion the market tenants are too frightened to speak out publicly against the plans, in case they are not offered a shop in the new market. At the recent community liason meeting on the 14th May to discuss the relocation of the market stalls, it was too late to raise any objections, as the plans had already been submitted. I wasn´t invited to be in the consultative group, but was represented by two of the market tenants who never got back to me.
"I happened to go to have another look at Hays Galleria today, and have a horrible feeling that Greenwich Market will end up like that with a few token barrows selling souvenirs, surrounded by seating for the hotel's brasserie bar, and chain stores- Next, Assessorize.etc."
Anonymous stallholder #1 (NB - all the stallholders requested anonymity - several said they had been asked not to talk to the press): "I see no reason to change. It seems quite nice as it is. It has got quite a nice balance as it is. I can't see the logic."
Anonymous stallholder #2: "Look around you - does this look like a market in need of regeneration?"
Anonymous stallholder #3: "We haven't been told very much about it but we quite like the market now. I do good business here. I have seen the new designs and I don't like them - they are not in keeping with Greenwich. They [the developers] say they have consulted some people but they haven't consulted most of us."
Anonymous stallholder #4: "Nobody has told us a thing. We don't know what will happen to us and we are worried."