Last Sunday, January 22, was the start of Chinese Lunar New Year.

The preceding days were icily cold, prompting residents to call for missing grit bins, but that bright, sunny morning, gave a glimmer of spring to come and boded well.

Times have been difficult for everyone, the years during the pandemic seem almost dreamlike, and our high streets were decimated.

The traders in the Hampstead Antiques & Craft Emporium had a particularly hard time; they were forced to quit their stalls with very little notice earlier this January. The landlord had sold the land to a prospective property developer, which was a nice Christmas present for them, but left the traders, the site, and the neighbourhood, to an unknown future.

The site is unlikely to get planning permission for residential development and has the protection of Asset of Community Value (ACV) status.

Ham & High: Cllr Linda Chung is supporting traders affected by the closure of the Hampstead Antiques & Craft EmporiumCllr Linda Chung is supporting traders affected by the closure of the Hampstead Antiques & Craft Emporium (Image: Camden Council)

Hampstead's high street, currently with many empty shops, needs something different that gives it vibrancy. The group of traders, with their unique specialisms, created a place of charm and curiosity, popular with the locals and attracting visitors. Ensuring the survival of the market and small traders is vital.

In 2020, Camden created a Renewal Commission to look at ways to renew post-Covid, not just recover. It concentrated on the public sector, but its ideas on creating sustainable neighbourhoods were sound.

The commission’s report in 2021 said: “The crisis in Camden shows the real cost of an unequal society and economy that was not serving people or planet. But the experience of the pandemic has also shown the power of places and communities, and their ability to lead change and the creation of a more equal society."

Ultimately, the traders want their site back, as does the community. Otherwise a much loved popular site will become another place of unaffordable rents, which stifles innovation.

Alexandra Porter, one of those who lost her business and a lead campaigner to save the market, and I are working with Camden to explore different options based on the work of the commission. No doubt we will be coming to you again for your support and will keep you posted.

Please keep in touch with us, and in the meantime, all good wishes for a happy, peaceful, and prosperous 2023.

Linda Chung is Liberal Democrat councillor for Hampstead Town ward and chair of Camden’s resources and corporate performance committee.