Traders seek compensation for loss of earnings
By Luchia Robinson
Save Latin Village campaigners are demanding compensation from TfL for damages and loss of earnings because of the closure of the indoor market site.
Seven Sisters Market (The Latin Village) in Wards Corner, Seven Sisters, was closed in March when the nation went into lockdown following the outbreak of Covid-19.
At the start of June, TfL (the freeholder of the market) declared the market unsafe to reopen, stating it would be doing critical remedial works because of concerns about safety – namely electrics, gas and the use of the market’s mezzanine floor.
The campaigners say that the closure of the mezzanine floor amounts to a 50% loss of trading space, and that livelihoods and business investments have been lost as a result of the market’s prolonged closure.
Campaigner Vicky Alvarez said: “We feel devastated because the organisation that’s supposed to protect us and look after us are not doing it.
“[TfL] are not even thinking that we have been closed for six months now, and people have to pay rent, they have to live, they have to put food on the table. It is extremely upsetting to see how desperate the traders are at the moment.
“All this is really upsetting because you can see a big corporation trying to swallow small communities and do whatever they please with them.”
The Save Latin Village traders say that TfL has been negligent by managing the decline of the market and delaying the repair works.
Community campaigner, Mirca Morera said: “TfL should be working around the clock to do the remedial work, and they are not doing anything.
“Every trader in [the market] is from a Black and minority ethnic group, they’ve already been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 and [TfL have] almost compounded that impact by not doing what they are meant to do – which is what they should have done ages ago.”
The Save Latin Village campaigners have been fighting to save the indoor market from demolition for many years, raising awareness of the site’s importance, both as a cultural asset for BAME communities, and as a business hub with the second largest concentration of Latin businesses in the UK.
Tensions between the traders, TfL and the previous market manager (leaseholder) MAM (Market Asset Management) have been fraught throughout; the traders having flagged up instances of racial discrimination and misconduct to TfL and Haringey Council, which they say were made by MAM over the years. These concerns were addressed last year at the council’s scrutiny review of Wards Corner.
TfL say they had tried to promote better relations between the traders and the market manager on several occasions, adding that they were disappointed in MAM’s progress to address recommendations made in a report (commissioned in December 2019), which highlighted a number of health and safety issues at the market.
In July, TfL ‘instigated a process’ that saw them take over the lease of the indoor market from MAM.
TfL did not provide Tottenham Community Press with details of a date of completion or when the traders can expect to start trading again. They also didn’t address claims of managing the decline of the market, nor say whether there were delays to the improvement works.
Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL, said: “We have been working hard to address the significant health and safety issues at Seven Sisters Market since we took over the lease so businesses can reopen at the earliest opportunity. We’ve been carrying out fire safety inspections and surveys in addition to electrical repairs.
“The market is an important local asset and we are keen to see businesses trade again as quickly as possible but this can only happen when it is safe to do so. We are in regular communication with the traders to offer information and support.”
Stuart McNamara, a volunteer with the Save Latin Village campaign, said: “TfL are in dialogue with traders – that is good, but the bottom line is, there’s a difference between the validity of talking and actually getting anything done.
“[The market has been] closed for over 20 weeks, under the pretext of the need to do urgent works – how urgent were the works that they still haven’t been done?
“Traders have not been able to trade, in contravention of guidance from the government that would have allowed them to trade. They’ve been economically starved into submission whilst TfL are saying that they are trying to be part of the solution.”
Haringey Council says it has provided dedicated support for the market traders, to enable them to access government business rates grants. It says it is “fully committed to a sustainable long-term Latin Village market,” and that the traders are being supported with the temporary move to the Apex Gardens site located across the road.
A community redevelopment plan for Seven Sisters Market was created as an alternative to the proposed redevelopment works on the Wards Corner plot. However, redevelopment of the site was agreed by Haringey Council and property developer, Grainger in 2004. This is subject to a Compulsory Purchase Order proceeding.