Battle lines drawn after invasion by ‘French’ market

SHOPKEEPERS have slammed Camden Council for allowing Les Bleus to set up a French market in Belsize Park over the weekend.

Traders on Haverstock Hill said takings were down across the weekend and blame the market – which they claim sells everything from Turkish to Italian and Spanish food as well as French.

The market caused controversy two years ago when it was held in the same place because it obscured entrances to shops, polluted the air with its diesel generators and caused traders huge losses.

They have since called for it to be held in the more appropriate market area in Swiss Cottage.

But despite the controversy, the council did not warn traders of this French market. They only found out from the advertising signs which went up last week.

Andrew Thornton, owner of Budgen’s, said: “We lost takings of around �5,000 because of the market, which is a significant amount of money.

“Two years ago this happened and everyone was up in arms. A lot of the traders objected and the residents did not particularly like it.

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“I pay �100,000 in rates a year, which this market does not. There were Turkish and Italian stalls – so it was hardly a total French market.

“I find it difficult to understand why the council let it go ahead and did not tell us, given how much protest there was last time.”

Mahadeva Thaya, manager of Hill Food and Wine, said: “The market was really bad for business.

“Sales were down all over the weekend when the market was here and the council did not tell us about it in advance. There were fewer customers and nobody was buying our food.”

Residents have accused the council of flying in the face of protecting local businesses.

They add that a market held in Swiss Cottage would not damage any business and question why it was not held there.

The market ran from Friday to Sunday and sold a range of food and crafts, including jewellery, French cheese, olives, bread, soap, baklava, jams, meat and Indonesian crafts.

French-born Patrick Farkas, of the steering group of Transition Belsize, said: “Basically, apart from damaging local businesses, it’s a con. Over half of what is being sold isn’t even French.

“I feel angry to see what we consider as cheap crap food sold as delicacies.”

Glenmore Road resident Yael Wiedemann added: “I was one of the residents who had many reservations about the French market when it last took place.

“Moreover, I understand that many of our local traders who provide us with such a wide range of good quality local and imported food produce were greatly disadvantaged by the whole project and their trade suffered greatly.”

Alexis Rowell, of Transition Belsize, who campaigned against the market in the past, said: “It was smaller than the last one and slightly less intrusive. But it is still the wrong market in the wrong place.

“It is lamentable the lack of consultation by the council, especially given how controversial it was last time.

“They only told us on Tuesday and did not consult anyone. It beggars belief that they could think this is good for Belsize.

“It really badly affects local traders. It was still too big, it was selling too much stuff that competed with our local shops and there were still too many diesel generators which are very polluting.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “Camden holds a variety of events and themed markets to help boost trade in our town centres and street markets.

“These events aim to increase footfall and generate new custom for local businesses. We work closely with stores to ensure the markets have a positive impact for them and will be gathering feedback to help us to improve future events, including for upcoming markets in Swiss Cottage, Leather Lane and Queens Crescent.

“Any income the council receives from these events is used to improve the borough’s street environment. This includes costs of waste collection and additional cleansing costs that may be generated by the markets.”