SIR – Ivan Macquisten (click here to see original comment piece) is only the latest in a string of pundits to swallow uncritically the claims being made about the council and Portobello Road.
It is almost as if he is unaware that there are elections on and that Portobello lies at the heart of a ward being bitterly contested by Labour and the Lib Dems. As ever, the truth has been the first casualty.
Some easily checkable facts may help ATG readers see things as they really are.
When a lease expires the council has no power whatsoever to prevent a landlord choosing to let his premises to a clothing retailer rather than to an antiques arcade. Because no planning permission is required for such a change, it follows that there was no planning application for it, misleading or otherwise.
There was, however, an application for alterations to the upper floor windows and to the rear of the building. The plans that supported that application did show the old arcade style layout on the ground floor, but, of course, the layout of the ground floor was entirely irrelevant to the planning matters that were the subject of the application and so no one should have been “hoodwinked” by the plans anyway.
All Saints, which replaced the arcade, did receive permission from the council for a new shop front. When the shop front was built, it wasn’t as agreed on the plans. This was swiftly discovered by the council and we immediately began the enforcement process, well before any campaign got off the ground to force us to take action. Of course, campaigns to force councils to do something they have already committed to doing is one of the lamest tropes of a certain strain of politician.
It is clearly true that the antiques trade is having a tough time at the moment and we are doing what we can to help. While changing consumer taste is beyond the council’s control, we are vigorously lobbying for more power to prevent the loss of small units where antiques traders can thrive. And we are doing much else besides.
The market itself is thriving under council management. We have secured 20 new units at the north end as part of the Wornington Green redevelopment, we have new public lavatories on the way and Tavistock Square will soon be renamed and redeveloped as a magnificent new addition to the market. There are plenty of other initiatives as well. Claims that we don’t care about Portobello Road simply cannot withstand objective scrutiny.
Councillor Daniel Moylan, Hon. FRIBA
Deputy Leader of the Council
Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea