Ridley Road is a street market and cultural institution in Hackney, London, under threat of being redeveloped into new residences. The campaign to save it, aptly dubbed ‘Save Ridley Road’, aims to raise alarm over the potential impact of Hackney Council’s ‘Dalston Plan’ on the viability of Ridley Road market. As they put it, the “plans to build almost 500 new residences on the site of the Kingsland Road Shopping Centre will irrevocably alter the character of Dalston as a whole”.
Aside from the cultural and social ramifications of losing a local street market to luxury housing, these plans are indicative of London’s wider, ongoing issue of gentrification. The ‘residences’ are set to be luxury flats for private sale, the building of which will impact Ridley Road in a multitude of negative ways. Hackney council has even stated that the plans will “design out” crime, hinting at the planned installation of dozens of new CCTV cameras on the market. Simply put, this is gentrification in action.
The campaign is calling for a more constructive approach, which focuses on listening to existing traders and market users, providing funding for local business initiatives, and building more homes for social rent. As their website summarises – “Ridley Road is more than just a street market… it’s a historic centre for music, art and culture. The affordable artists’ studio space continues this tradition and needs to be protected”.
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They also touch on the crux of the issue with the proposed redevelopment: highlighting the road and market’s importance in shaping and bringing together communities. SRR explains that “Ridley Road is the embodiment of Hackney’s diversity and in particular it is essential to the London Afro-Caribbean community”, and asks that “any new investment must be in this community’s interests”.
With so much of London and Hackney already irrevocably gentrified, it’s becoming increasingly rare to encounter sites of cultural and social significance: not for historical figures, but for local communities who have lived and worked there for generations. The proposed development, which would see office blocks, luxury houses and the loss of over half of current local traders screams exclusivity, unaffordability and division: something that London, and the world in general, would increasingly benefit from doing without.
As of 25 January 2022, the campaign shared that “Hackney Council agreed to take over a 15 year lease on the Basement, Ground Floor and part of the First Floor of Ridley Road Shopping Village. After years of uncertainty and so much work by so many this is HUGE victory. For traders, campaigners, the whole borough. ‘Save Ridley Road’ is not something one campaign group can do. It’s not in the power of Hackney Council either. It’s what can be achieved by a whole community coming together and fighting for a vision of our city different to the one imposed on us by developers”. Whilst there’s still a lot to be ironed out, small victories in the opposition to the city’s gentrification problem should be celebrated. Keep up with the campaign on their socials.