Published: Wednesday, 19th August 2020
Leader of the Council, Cllr Danny Thorpe and Deputy Leader, Cllr Denise Scott-McDonald have written to the owners of Greenwich Market regarding increasing rents for market traders.
I’m sorry that we haven’t yet met, and you haven’t reached out to engage with the Council as the new Interim Director at Greenwich Hospital Estates.
As the Leader of the Council, and a lifelong Greenwich resident, I am extremely concerned about the absolutely shocking rent increases being imposed on traders at Greenwich Market. The market is not just a much-loved local institution, but an attraction that draws visitors from across the world. Sitting at the heart of our World Heritage Site, the Market is very much the beating heart of our borough’s unique tourist offer. Indeed, 46% of all visitors who come to Greenwich visit the market and we estimate the value of Greenwich Market to the local economy to be in the region of £25 million per annum.
Your ill thought-through proposals threaten to kill off the market entirely, leaving a huge hole in our town centre and having a much wider impact than you perhaps appreciate.
All of us have experienced significant disruption as a result of the pandemic, and clearly there is much to be done before we get anywhere close to normal, if a return to pre-COVID times is ever possible. However, expecting decent, hard-working traders to bear the brunt of a pandemic is frankly a disgrace. Particularly when Greenwich Hospital Estates has a balance sheet which exceeds £300 million, a substantial amount of which I’m sure comes from Greenwich Town Centre, where I understand huge profits have been made on your assets and is clearly more well placed to survive this crisis than most. Surely, you should be considering using your substantial portfolio to support your loyal tenants in Greenwich, who have clearly played a huge role in your economic success and growth?
The Council, and all of our partners, are working flat out to restart our tourism economy. Our ‘Royal Greenwich – It’s time!’ festival runs in August and September after many of our summer events and shows were postponed due to COVID-19. We have joined forces with Visit Greenwich and South East London Chamber of Commerce to plan and programme a celebration that will bring our communities together again and encourage residents onto our high streets and into our tourist attractions. There are over 60 offers currently online. I’m disappointed that you do not appear to have engaged with this opportunity, and rather than thinking about how we can boost visitor numbers, you have decided to shoulder traders with completely unjustified rent increases, that will put many out of business.
It gives me no joy to write in such direct terms and having led the borough’s response to Covid-19, I can assure you that I am fully aware of the challenges we all face. But this is not the answer.
I would like to invite you to the Town Hall for an urgent meeting with myself and colleagues next week. If it is easier for you, we could meet in Greenwich town centre.
Given the level of distress that this has caused, I’m also asking you to put an immediate stop to any increase in charges pending our discussion.
I would appreciate an urgent reply.
Councillor Danny Thorpe
Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich
Councillor Denise Scott-McDonald
Royal Borough of Greenwich Deputy Leader, Royal Borough of Greenwich