Chiswick split on the pros and cons of a street food market

Image above: An example street food market elsewhere, submitted by Richard Johnson in his application

Around 30 people have written to the Council’s licensing committee objecting to the proposal for a new street market, but almost twice as many have written in support

The proposal for a street food market in Chiswick, selling a range of international foods including Italian, French, Indian, Swedish, Australian and barbeque on the fourth Sunday of every month, will come before Hounslow’s licensing committee to be discussed on Tuesday 22 August.

The market would be in the same place as the Chiswick Flower Market and the Chiswick Cheese Market, outside the old police station at 209 Chiswick High Rd, extending east along the High Rd as far as the Metrobank, with 62 pitches offering ‘every type of food from ingredients to meal kits’. Its opening hours would be from 11am until 4pm.

The man behind the idea, Chiswick-based entrepreneur and food writer Richard Johnson, applied for a licence earlier this year and was turned down, on what he says was two technicalities, so he has made the relevant changes and put in his application again. He was told his market plan, which he had drawn up by a surveyor “wasn’t clear enough”.

READ MORE: Sunday street food market for Chiswick High Rd turned down

Richard has made his career promoting street food:

“The best meals I’ve ever eaten weren’t in a Michelin-starred establishment. They were on the streets. The streets of Bethlehem, with its hole-in-the-wall falafel shacks serving up fat pittas, stuffed with hummus, pickle and broad beans. The streets of New York. And the streets of Mandalay, where I first had fishy noodles – for breakfast – still salty from the sea. Street food is exciting. But you wouldn’t say that of street food in Europe. Until now.”

He plans to run the market with an experienced food market operator Blue Collar, who run a permanent street food market in Reading.

Image above: Chiswick Flower Market; photograph Anna Kunst

“A great addition to the fun weekly events on the Chiswick High Road”

In the supporters’ corner, at time of writing 57 people had written to the licensing panel to voice their support.

“I think it would be a great addition to the fun weekly events on the Chiswick High Road and overall benefit both local businesses and residents” said one.

“I’ve lived in Chiswick for 40 years now and think it’s a wonderful mix of restaurants/shops etc so it will be great to showcase more produce suppliers in the area” said another. “The other Sunday Markets have brought a great atmosphere and sense of community to Chiswick.”

Image above: An example street food market elsewhere, submitted by Richard Johnson in his application

Opportunities for local businesses

Others echoed the positive impact of the Sunday markets and the opportunities for local businesses:

“The introduction of Sunday markets on the High Rd has been transformative in recent years. It brings the High Rd to life on a Sunday.”

“I think a street food market would be an excellent addition – a chance for small businesses to showcase their fayre at more affordable rates than in a traditional shop front environment.”

“I believe the local shops would also benefit from the additional foot fall.”

A company that runs sites in areas such as Borough Market and near Victoria Food Halls has offered the benefit of their experience:

“We know that an established well run street food offer only adds to the opportunities presented to brick and mortar businesses. The concept is not a challenge to existing spaces but a chance to collaborate, market and shout about what is great here.”

Another, representing a Church community centre just off the High Rd , wrote:

“We have many independent caterers who come to the Centre to work on various events, who would love the idea of a local Street Food Market in the area.”

Image above: Chiswick Cheese Market; photograph Jennifer Griffiths

“Don’t let the conspiracy theorists and general moaners have their way”

Many repeated the theme that the markets are bringing a vibrancy to the High Rd which is a good thing for the community.

“This would make an excellent addition to the thriving markets that we’ve had appear over the past few years and would bring people out onto the high road encouraging more local commercial
activity.”

“There are so many reasons why I am in support of this idea including:
– brings new people to area who will spend £ in local shops -good use of the space to offer one off
foods not usually available
– a great family day out
– a great place to bump into friends in the area
– great fun
– supporting the street food vendors to succeed

Councillor Guy Lambert, who used to live in Chiswick and now lives in Brentford, said:

“I’m very enthusiastic about the markets (flowers and ‘antiques’ particularly). They are a reason to go to Chiswick, they are normally packed with people and empty shops in that area don’t stay empty long. A food market would finish the work and really make Chiswick a treasured destination.”

Another supporter wrote:

“It’s so lovely to see crowds of people having fun and getting out, instead of just using the place as a car park, or a thoroughfare. So strange it seems to have brought out a bunch of conspiracy theorists and general moaners on local social media, it’d be a shame if they got their way.”

Cllr Joanna Biddolph objects to the food market

Cllr Joanna Biddolph has put in a ten page objection to the street market. She says Chiswick already has a large number of places to eat out:

“These represent a huge number of types of cuisine, prices (from small budget everyday options to Michelin star special occasion destinations), as well as casual, smart, family orientated.

She goes on to say that the food stalls would block the view of the shops in the parade from the street, it would ‘obliterate’ the ‘character and ambiance’ of Chiswick created by the ‘diversity and quirkiness’ of our independent shops and that it would provide direct competition from the bricks and mortar shops.

“No-one has asked residents if they want Chiswick to be a market town. Indeed, a large number of residents actively go out of Chiswick on market Sundays as they don’t like the market atmosphere; they go to other towns including outside the borough to avoid it, spending their money elsewhere.

“Others want at least one no market Sunday when they can enjoy the town they moved to precisely because they like it as it was on Sundays, enjoying strolling along the High Road and other roads peacefully.”

“If businesses close, Chiswick will become a ghost town”

Food traders are still struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic, with labour shortages and supply chain issues, exacerbated now by the cost of living impact on consumer spending. They are worried, she says, that “having to compete against a food street market – of any size – will mean the end of their business.

“There are serious and significant risks to bricks and mortar businesses from loss of business on what should be the best day of the week for eating out. If businesses close, Chiswick will become a ghost town.”

Cllr Biddolph also complains about the loss of parking, she anticipates the food market causing greasy pavements and an increase in litter and bringing unwanted smells, and vermin.

In her view the introduction of a food market would be divisive in Chiswick.

Hounslow Council’s Transport department have already given their consent for use of the public highway for this market on the dates and times requested.

Other than Cllr Biddolph’s objection so far there have been about 30 other objections from members of the public citing similar concerns about the impact on parking, about unfair competition for existing bricks and mortar food businesses, and the potential for smells and mess.

Image above: Chiswick Vintage and Antiques Market

Licensed food seller (retaining their anonymity) claims to have lost trade because of the existing markets

One, who identifies themselves as ‘a licensed premises in Chiswick’ says:

“As a small independent trading entity we are losing up to 50% of our normal trade when events like this happen.

“We rely on regular income streams from regulars who are spreading there (sic) income around and cannot now afford to go out as much as they did prior to the pandemic, so they go to try these events but then don’t spend with their normal local businesses, a net loss to the community.

“If you are not careful you will have more street markets and less independently run places left.”

Image above: An example street food market elsewhere, submitted by Richard Johnson in his application

Residents group say most of their members are against it

Another, from the Mid Chiswick Society, a residents group representing Elliott Road, Windmill Road, Chardin Road, Chiswick Common Road, Fishers Lane and Bond Street, says they carried out a survey of their members and of those who replied, 50% were against the idea of a street food market, and only 28% were in favour.

They cite unfair competition with existing businesses, pressure on parking spaces, an expectation that there would be more litter, but also the “lack of experience” of the applicant Richard Johnson.

“The main applicant, Richard Johnson has not run an equivalent market in an urban environment like Chiswick. He is a food writer and food judge. His partners have run markets, but not remotely in an equivalent urban London environment so close to local residents.”

They also echo Cllr Biddolph’s complaint that:

“There has been no genuine process by the Council to ask residents and shopkeepers what they actually feel about the markets which are operating and what they would feel about an additional
market. The Markets represent a major change for people’s Sundays – originally the idea was for one or two markets a month – not every Sunday. While some like the change – opinion is divided.”

Another objector raised the question of where the street food would be eaten:

“There is nothing in the application to explain where customers are going to eat the food that they have bought – this is a real issue.”

Several expressed their wish to remain anonymous, and all the names of the objectors are redacted.

If you have strong feelings on the subject and would like to make them known to the licensing panel, email  william.lee@hounslow.gov.uk

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