A GROUP of Portobello Road dealers are to lobby the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea following the loss of a prominent antiques arcade to a highstreet retailer.
In just six hours on Saturday, January 23, 1800 people signed a
petition citing the apparent failure of a 2007 report recommending
ways that the borough might protect its unique cultural asset.
Campaigners for the market have expressed concern over the last
few years about the changing character of one of London's top five
tourist attractions, including the appearance of big-name coffee
chains in the area.
But much of the trade's ire is now focused on the closure last
year of Lipka's Arcade, on the corner of adjoining Westbourne
Grove, where 150 dealers traded, both inside and outside on the
pavement. After virtually no public consultation, this prime 15,000
sq ft site was replaced by highstreet fashion retailer All
Portobello Antiques Dealers' Association chairman Costas
Kleanthous said after the new outlet opened, it was "to the
detriment of the antiques market, and has left dealers with nowhere
to go". He has written to Kensington and Chelsea Council asking
them to clarify the terms of the business conservation area status
that Portobello adopted three years ago.
It was in May 2007 when the Royal Borough of Kensington &
Chelsea published A Balance of Trade, a report by the
Commission on Retail Conservation. It was a widely welcomed study
detailing the council's desire to protect Portobello's unique
Among its conclusions was that "specific functions in specific
settings can be protected. We think this is now required for the
antiques arcades on Portobello Road".
The market, said the Council, must not be "overrun by identikit
multiples". The decision was taken to designate Portobello as a
Special District Centre and make small shops a separate class in
But after promises of extra protection, dealers are questioning
the impact of A Balance of Trade following the ejection of
150 dealers from Lipka's Arcade.
When the dealers vacated the two-storey and basement arcade last
summer, they were assured that they would be able to return to a
refurbished basement, with new retail space at ground level and
flats above. Instead it was unveiled late last year as a branch of
the All Saints chain.
The fashion retailers have chosen a warehouse-style frontage
using fibreglass and effectively replaced six shopfronts on
Westbourne Grove and four on Portobello with sheet glass. Critics
say the newcomers are unsympathetic to a conservation area.
When approached by ATG, the Council said they were
"investigating" possible breaches in planning regulations, but said
they did not have powers to intervene in the choice of new tenants
as there has been no change of use - the site remains retail.
A council spokesman said in a statement: "National planning
legislation does not give councils the power to intervene when an
antiques gallery is replaced by a fashion retail store.
"The Portobello area has been granted Special District status.
The council can take a stronger approach to prevent shops being
converted for other uses in Portobello, such as restaurants, but we
do not have powers to prevent changes from one type of retail shop
"We have lobbied central Government for these powers, without
success, and we are currently lobbying the other London boroughs
for their support."
A serious concern is that developers now own most of the
antiques arcades. UK Investments, Portobello Investments and
Westbourne Arcades have properties in the area. Lipka's was
previously run by the Portobello Group, who have six arcades on
Marion Delehar, whose family has had an antiques shop in
Portobello Road for 50 years, says: "Incandescent doesn't begin to
describe our feelings." She urges readers to register support for
Portobello either via the written petition, which is being
circulated in the market and at shops and centres nationwide, or
online at www.ipetitions.com/petition/portobello
or join the Facebook page at Save the Portobello Road Market.
By Roland Arkell