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THE five-year campaign to protect Portobello antique dealers from the invasion of retail giants has ended in victory.

The radical decision by Kensington and Chelsea Council to effectively create an enclave for small shops could act as a blueprint for other shopping and tourist destinations across Britain.

ATG broke the news to Portobello Antique Dealers Association chairman Costas Kleanthous, who has tirelessly campaigned for the measures since 2002 – often in the teeth of strong opposition from outside commercial interest.

He was delighted at the news, particularly welcoming proposals including:

• Most importantly, the decision to make small shops a separate class in planning law, requiring retail chains to obtain planning permission to change the use of premises previously occupied by an independent trader.

• Free, 30-minute parking to allow more people to use small shops locally.

• The funding of a full-time representative to champion local shops.

• To redesignate Portobello as a Special District Centre, with the extra protection for retailers that brings.

In fact, the council has decided to adopt 45 of the 54 proposals put forward by the Commission on Retail Preservation, an exploratory panel set up by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea “to preserve the character of our neighbourhood shopping areas and reduce the cloning effect apparent on major high streets”.

Among others, the panel included Sir Terence Conran and Andrew Ashenden, chief executive of the Howard De Walden Estates, whose substantial London freeholdings include Marylebone High Street.

Mr Ashenden, a passionate advocate of the sort of successful mixed use high street epitomised by Marylebone, is known for his harsh criticism of the encroachment of chain store multiples.

He was delighted that the council had decided to adopt the measures but is reserving is judgment on their effectiveness until he sees how far they will go to implement them.

Mr Kleanthous, who has long feared the decline of the area as a tourist must-visit destination because of the influx of coffee shop chains and so-called ‘clone’ stores, said he would be looking closely at the council’s rulings before giving a detailed response.

But he was delighted by what he has heard so far.

“It’s fantastic,” he told ATG. “It justifies all the struggles that the antiques dealers have had to go through all these years to preserve the market.

“Often the pressure from developers has been intense.

“We would like to thank the council and the other campaigners and look forward to assessing the measures in detail.”

• The measures follow similar policies in Westminster, where special status has been given to protect the tailors of Savile Row and the West End theatres. Outside London, Ludlow Council in Shropshire has already applied to become the country’s first Cittaslow Town to protect its local shops, owned by local people selling local produce.

By Ivan Macquisten