Traders' desperate plea: We've lost our livelihoods

ANGRY market traders who lost their livelihoods in Saturday night's Camden Town fire had heated talks with their landlord today

ANGRY market traders who lost their livelihoods in Saturday night's Camden Town fire had heated talks with their landlord today.

Around 50 stallholders and shop owners met with bosses from Camden Market Holdings at its headquarters on Castlehaven Road to discuss the future.

There were emotional scenes as the stallholders were allowed back in to the burnt-out canal market to survey the devastation.

But there was also good news for traders, as Camden Market Holdings vowed to double the money Mayor Ken Livingstone recently pledged to a recovery fund.

The landlord is also offering rent-free periods and money for the rebuilding of stalls.

But traders, one of whom says he lost more than £1million in stock, say it will never be enough.

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Sonny Gulati, who has sold leather clothing for the past 20 years, said: "Until we get the money it is all just talk, talk, talk. I think they will probably just give us £10 a week.

"It's our livelihoods. We are jobless, we have nothing to live on now.

"I want immediate relief for existence and survival. We need money to pay our bills. I was the sole earner in my family. I will have to look somewhere else to survive."

It has emerged none of the stall holders were able to take out insurance policies.

Mr Gulati said: "No company would give insurance to any market trader because it was considered a fire hazard from the very beginning. Management are responsible for it. They used to say to us if you don't like it, just walk away."

Another trader Rezaur Rahman lost £80,000 of stock, which he kept underneath the railway arches because he thought it was safer. He said: "If the market had been done properly we would not have any of this devastation. I always knew in the back of my mind this was not safe. The landlords should have insured everybody and then we could have paid a bit more rent."

Questions have been raised as to whether there were enough fire extinguishers and alarms in the market.

Camden Town Labour Party councillor Pat Callaghan said: "I'm very concerned to hear about health and safety issues from the traders and the fact that they cannot get insurance endorses this.

"I do hope that Camden Market Holdings are going to treat them with respect as most of them have been rent payers for a long number of years."

After the meeting CMH spokesman Piers Codling spoke to the Ham&High and said it will take time to work out how the reparation money will be allocated.

"We are going to meet with the traders individually and see what part of the fund we can give them," he said.

"We have to be very fair. We are not promising 100 per cent or zero per cent compensation. We have to look at every individual case.

"We are responsible for the overall site but the individual units are the responsibility of the tenants. They know they are in charge of their units and that we are in charge of the site.

"We had the usual controls, checks and balances in place and we don't know how the fire started."

Mr Codling suggested accommodation for the traders may be found in the nearby Stables Market, which was unaffected by the fire.

Rumours persist that the canal market site will now be the subject of a huge redevelopment but Mr Codling said his company is committed to rebuilding the market.

A temporary office will be opened on Inverness Street so traders can meet with council officers and officials from Camden Market Holdings for advice and support.