In a separate development, dealers at the Admiral Vernon Antiques Arcade have been told the building is being considered for refurbishment. However, owner Warren Todd confirmed to ATG that the plans are intended to “maintain it as the premier antiques arcade in Portobello”.
With stallholders setting up before 5am, the Good Fairy covered market has traditionally been the first to open for early morning trade at Portobello, but it is now feared the site will be redeveloped for a retail chain store. Dealers were given one week’s notice that the 40-stall covered market would be closing.
It was no secret that the site at 100 Portobello Road has been subject to redevelopment plans for some time. A planning application to demolish the market and build a new open-plan retail space with apartments above was granted in 2007.
The three-year window to carry out these works elapsed on March 8 but the owners have now applied for an extension.
Save Portobello Road Market campaigners, who on March 3 handed in a petition of 7500 signatures objecting to the inconsistent planning decisions made by the Kensington and Chelsea Council, are arguing that this application needs to be completely reconsidered with an eye to maintaining the character and uniqueness of the area.
They say the Good Fairy remains a traditional and central part of the Portobello Road antiques trade and are urging the council to negotiate with the developers to maintain a market hall on the ground and basement floors while still allowing the owners to benefit from the lucrative residential development on the floors above.
The applicant’s name on the planning document is Concentric Solutions Ltd, a software consultancy company that ATG understands are the owners of the Good Fairy site. No one at Concentric was available for comment when contacted by ATG last week.
However, Rob Maciver who is associated with the market said that the owners’ original plans were indeed to redevelop the premises as an antiques centre, but that opposition they had faced from various quarters had made this less likely.
Kensington and Chelsea council said that they could not comment on the case as it is the subject of a current planning application. However, in a statement sent to ATG they said: “We will listen carefully to representations from local residents and traders. The reapplication is similar to fully applying for planning permission as current policies are considered and people can write in to give their views, which will be considered with the application.
“The Council’s planning policies are currently being reviewed and the new Local Development Framework, as well as the Mayor of London’s London Plan, will have to be considered in the current application regarding the Good Fairy.”
They said that they were doing all they can within the limits of their powers to protect the antiques trade in Portobello.
Many Portobello Road dealers remain unconvinced.
Christopher Hickey who runs the jewellery arcade Central Gallery on Portobello Road and is involved with Save the Portobello Road Market campaign said: “The council and the developers fail to understand the nature and importance of the antiques trade to this neighbourhood and also to our city. Our cultural heritage is being decimated as we speak. There are no real antiques markets left in London today and Portobello Road market is famous the world over.”
The issue of Portobello’s redevelopment, widely reported in the London press and on social networking websites, is becoming an increasingly political issue in the local area. Robin Meltzer, the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Kensington, has now backed the Save the Portobello Road Market campaign.
The council has also put a petition on the Number 10 website asking the Government to give councils more powers, particularly on the issue of merging several small retail units into larger ones. The petition can be read at http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Smallshops
Much of the ire of the Save the Portobello Road Market campaign has focused on the closure last year of Lipka’s Antiques Gallery, a key site on the corner of Westbourne Grove.
It reopened as an outlet for the fashion chain All Saints who subsequently applied for retrospective planning permission for the plate-glass shop-fronts and other minor alterations to the building (the public consultation for this particular application ends on Friday, March 26).
The Lipka site was one of seven antiques arcades in the area owned by Warren Todd of The Portobello Group.
In response to what he called ‘inaccurate’ press reports and rumours, Mr Todd issued a letter to stallholders dated February 12. The letter points out that there were only 79 dealers remaining in Lipka’s when it closed – not 200 as was the figure used in the petition handed to the council or the 150 reported by ATG.
Of these 79 dealers, Mr Todd says 66 were re-housed into the group’s other Portobello Road arcades. “Lipka’s…simply wasn’t viable as an antiques arcade,” he wrote. “The redevelopment of this property… has enabled us to significantly strengthen our offering by relocating dealers from Lipka’s into the many vacant units that were in Portobello [and] keep the heart beating.”
The letter also discussed plans to refurbish The Portobello Group’s other arcades and invited stallholders to make suggestions on how to improve them. It mentioned specifically a proposal to install air conditioning in the flagship centre the Admiral Vernon but Mr Todd was quick to crush rumours that Admiral Vernon would become another Lipka’s.
He told ATG last week that the Admiral Vernon arcade would remain open as an antiques centre even if the planned refurbishments go ahead. “Our intention is to maintain it as the premier arcade in Portobello,” he said.