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Parking changes create new problems for antiques dealers in Portobello Road

23 April 2013Written by Tom Derbyshire

The latest blow to hit antiques dealers in Portobello Road has left them looking for the secure parking needed to run their businesses.

Until late last year, an agreement with the Portobello Antique Dealers' Association (PADA) meant that about 60 dealers were able to rent parking spaces at Colville Primary School very close to the main area of galleries and shops.

When the school decided to build new reception classes the dealers had to find new parking spaces for the first time in about 25 years, and are now around 500m further north, at the Isaac Newton Centre for Continuing Professional Development in Lancaster Road.

But even that space is in doubt - it seems that Kensington & Chelsea council (RBKC) say it could be redeveloped and have confirmed it is not earmarked for commercial parking.

PADA chairman Costas Kleanthous said: "It is on the list of properties to dispose - certainly the car park is, and maybe the whole site - so it is not a long-term solution."

Carrying stock to and from shops has become a big problem, especially for jewellery dealers. Mr Kleanthous said two or three dealers are thought to have decided to quit as a result.

Long Walk

One long-standing family of Portobello dealers has certainly been affected. Marion Gettleson, who set up the Save the Portobello Road Market campaign on Facebook, has run a shop for many years, with her brother Peter Delehar, offering scientific instruments, while her sisters Valerie Jackson-Harris and Flora Offord sold extensive stocks of ephemera and vintage costume jewellery respectively.

But now, for different medical reasons, Marion's brother and sisters are unable to make the longer walk to the car and have decided to retire, although Marion says she will continue trading on Saturdays, and is still very upbeat about the area.

"On Saturdays it is still an exciting place and the entire world turns up," she said. "Our family moved their business to Portobello in the late 1950s and we have been there ever since. I want to continue trading for as long as possible - I love it."

Valerie will still go to specialist book and ephemera fairs and continue as chairman of the Ephemera Society.

Their parents, Mark (Michael) and Leah Harris, started the family firm in 1919 and Mrs Harris's mother was a dealer in London before the First World War.

RBKC said that the council were looking at options for the Isaac Newton Centre site, one of which is redevelopment. The current licence agreement allows traders to park there at weekends, but the council have no obligation to provide parking if that agreement ends, they said. "Commercial parking is not a use we would look to re-provide on this site."

Security

CCTV is also an issue. Dealers want it improved after a spate of robberies, but there has been little progress. The council say there is already CCTV in and around the Portobello Road, although it doesn't cover the whole area used by the trade.

"The council will be seeking to adjust the positioning of some cameras to make sure that they do give a good view of crime hotspots and we will be looking very carefully at Portobello Road in this respect," said RBKC.

• Meanwhile, four men appeared before Westminster Magistrates' Court on February 25 charged with conspiracy to commit robbery. Their arrest on February 23, and subsequent charge, follows an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Service's London Crime Squad into a series of high-value robberies targeting jewellers and antiques dealers around Portobello.

Those charged are: Adam Stefanowicz, 28, Jan Kowal, 51, and Ireneuusz Szawkalo, 45, all of Amhurst Park, London N16, and Mirusz Golait, 39, of no fixed address. All four men were remanded in custody to next appear before Southwark Crown Court for a plea, case and management hearing on May 1.

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