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In another potential blow for the market, there are moves to introduce licensing regulations for some outside pitches, which would drive up costs.

A spokesman for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea refused to confirm that threats to confiscate stock had been made but did say that the council were in negotiation with the trade to “ensure that Portobello Road remains an enjoyable and safe place to visit”.

The problem has grown as some dealers with outside pitches have spread beyond their set spaces, making it difficult for pedestrians to pass between the stalls. Where the road narrows, congestion is inevitable, making it potentially difficult for emergency vehicles to use.

The Portobello Antique Dealers Association (PADA) are actively trying to improve safety measures and are calling on dealers to “keep the pavements clear and unobstructed, otherwise you may face a possible prosecution”.

PADA chairman Costas Kleanthous, who runs Kleanthous Antiques with his brother, Chris, said: “My association are 100 per cent with the council for keeping roads and pavements clear. We have campaigned to make Portobello Road a pedestrian area on Saturday and we have a responsibility to make sure that not only visitors but residents are happy and safe.”

Dealers are equally concerned about the possibility that some of the pitches outside the antiques centres and markets could go as the council enforce a 1990 Act requiring pitches on private forecourts to be licensed.
Until now, Portobello Road and Westbourne Grove have been exempt under the Act.

Any such enforcement risks driving up the price of pitches as the arcades themselves would be forced to pay a licence fee for using their own forecourts for any dealing within three metres of the road – which would include all outside stalls there.

Minutes of a meeting between the council, the PADA and the Portobello Management Committee (which covers all areas of trading, not just antiques) in October of 1994 clearly state that, should there be a change in this exclusion, it would only be in consultation with the Portobello Management Committee and the PADA who, according to Mr Kleanthous, “are going to fight it very, very hard”.

He stressed that Portobello was one of the ten most popular attractions in Great Britain, “the market has a particular look and atmosphere which would change if it were regulated. The outside stalls are the visiting cards for the arcades and Portobello is the biggest regular antiques market in the world, with people coming from all over the world to visit it and bringing money into the area. Even President Clinton came to say goodbye on his last visit to London as President.”

The council officer seeking to enforce the 1990 Act has been sent the minutes of the 1994 meeting and negotiations are continuing. As Chris Kleanthous, also of Kleanthous Antiques says, “We want a discussion to come to a very sensible point of view.”