Read this my droogs:
If you couldn’t be bothered to read it, the big news is that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea have given their approval for a massive redevelopment on the site of the Good Fairy market in Portobello Road. A five-storey retail and residential complex is, according to Kensington and Chelsea’s council, totally cool man. Nearly 34,000 members of the Save the Portobello Road Market group on Facebook would apparently disagree.
And rightly so. Lipka’s and Van’s, two other arcades, have been sold off already. The former is now a controversial branch of All Saints and the latter is going a similar route. The council are whining that technically this is perfectly legal and there’s nothing they can do – the sites were sold as retail, and they’re being used for retail by the new developers. The phrase “grow a pair” springs unbidden to my lips as the street tumbles towards genericism.
I mean, the problem with this must surely be obvious. Portobello Road is a tourist attraction. Have you never seen Bedknobs and Broomsticks, man? Have you never seen Notting Hill? Have you never read the Paddington Bear books? Shall I spell this out for you? If-Portobello-Road-loses-the-thing-that-makes-it-a-tourist-attraction-then-it-will-no-longer-be-a-tourist-attraction. Sure, people will visit – for all people complain about chain stores, someone’s obviously using them, otherwise they wouldn’t be chain stores in the first place. But what would be the point of specifically visiting Notting Hill? Why not go to Kensington High Street, or Oxford Street, or Westfield London, or Kingston? You could get the same thing there, and more of it. Meanwhile, a place that’s genuinely unique and interesting, with a character found nowhere else in London, will disappear. Not to mention the unemployment resulting from the closure of hundreds of antique stalls.
Frankly, though, I feel those who are against redevelopment are pissing in the wind. Because the Council simply don’t care. Why should they? Money talks. Redevelopers bring in money, character doesn’t. That’s why there’s no longer a market at Shepherd Market. That’s why Camden Passage is so crap these days. Portobello Road Market will disappear, replaced with rows of shiny plastic chain stores, perhaps with twee little plaques on the wall explaining that they were built on the site of historic Portobello Road Market.
Gah. This may be a little incomprehensible. I’m tired and cross. In short, a message to the Council: piss on your dreams.