Portobello pays the price of ‘progress’

 portobello road market

 A lot of water has passed under the Westway  since we last wrote about the  redevelopment threat to  Portobello Market and its near neighbours in our post, Portobello Road Market - help save a national treasure. In the meantime, we have been keeping an eye on ‘developments’ and it looks like things have taken a turn for the worse with the latest planning submissions, which, if passed, would undoubtedly destroy the character of this much loved part of London.

We have just signed this petition calling for a halt to the building of the “foul aberration” that is being planned for Portobello. According to the Westway Trust, its proposed 'Portobello Village' represents the perfect opportunity to develop 50,000 square feet of “underutilised land, both under and alongside the Westway” - but at what cost to local livelihoods, social diversity and cultural heritage?

As one petitioner put it: “This developer led cleansing of London has to stop, it's killing neighbourhoods and making it impossible to actually live 'local'. An area can't survive solely on boutique coffee stores and premium gyms.”

On our most recent visit to Portobello, it may have been raining cats and dogs, but the spirit and enthusiasm of the traders was far from dampened by the inclement weather. They are at the very heart of the local community and should not be forced from their pitches as calculated collateral damage in a move designed to squeeze maximum profit from every “underutilised” square foot of W.11.

And it’s not just the market that’s at risk of airbrushing out of the picture. We have also signed this petition urging the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea to retain the Maxilla Children’s Centre and Nursery School at the heart of the local community, rather than permanently relocating it to the obvious detriment of its local service users.

Look what happened to The Inn on the Green, which closed its doors four years ago, having been being deemed a "failed experiment" by the Westway Development Trust, despite being a much loved community venue which prioritised  local people over  profits. Back in the day, such facilities were supported by the local authority as their social value was rightly recognised, but there was never much hope of a lifeline for a prime location that was ripe for far more profitable redevelopment.

We may not live in the area any more, having left in the mid 80s with a bucket load of happy memories, but Portobello Road still touches our soul, and we are 100% behind community members in this latest battle to preserve their proud heritage and save this priceless piece of London from death by a thousand coffee shops and characterless shopping malls.

Now that the area has found favour with celebrity sorts and property developers, there is no longer room for any perceived blot on the luvvies' landscape, and little or no regard is paid to the views and values of local people, who are simply seen as obstacles to profit, to be cynically and systematically sidelined. We've seen it all before in other parts of London, and the capital itself is rapidly becoming a no-live zone for "hard working families" due to increasingly unaffordable housing costs. The architects of these relentless clearance projects would perhaps do well to remember that there may soon be no one left to serve their coffees or cleanse their streets.

On a positive note, the underdogs of W.11 are biting back and garnering significant support for their campaign to stop the steamrollers and preserve the unique character of Portobello. Please consider supporting their petitions, follow their community campaign on Facebook  and check out these links for further information:

‘Don’t suck the lifeblood out of Portobello’: Thousands sign petition against plan to redevelop vintage clothing market (Evening Standard, 10/04/15)

Save us from the developers’ vision of an antiseptic London  (The Guardian, 06/04/14)

The slow death of Portobello  (International Times, 02/04/15)

London’s Portobello Road faces redevelopment with Westfield-style shops (Metro, 12/03/15)