Flower Market idea gets enthusiastic reception

The proposal to set up a flower market on Chiswick High Rd met with an enthusiastic response at a public meeting in George IV last Thursday. The idea, put forward by a consortium of residents and businesses, including The Chiswick Calendar, is to have a market on the first Sunday of every month in Chiswick’s historic market place – the car park outside the police station– to attract people into the area and revitalise the local economy.

The problem of empty shops in the High Road is as bad as it has ever been. Ollie Saunders, whose idea the flower market is, told the packed meeting he would like to see the market become “the Columbia Road of the West – but better”.

“If you have not been to Columbia Road recently – go! I have been going for the last 15 years and it has seen a massive gentrification of the retail economy. There are 60 independent shops and over 5,000 shoppers on a Sunday morning. There is much doom about our High Streets but for them to thrive they have to offer things the internet cannot – it’s about personal interactions and having a great place to go to. Chiswick has this”.

Ollie noted that if you look at the entry and exit figures for London Underground stations at Turnham Green and at Kew Gardens on Sundays, it indicates an exodus, as people leave Chiswick to spend their Sunday elsewhere, while people in Kew tend to stay put and are joined by an influx of people from outside the area.

Karen Liebreich, Director of Abundance London, said the group had been working on the project for three weeks, talking to traders in Chiswick and potential stall holders, developing a business plan and setting up a Community Interest Company to run it.

“We are looking to work in partnership with LB Hounslow, who would deal with matters such as traffic management orders and cleaning up after the market”.

She said the group had been “inundated with ideas” from people who shared the concern about the High Rd and the desire to reverse its decline. One of those ideas is to have free Cargo bike deliveries taking plants to people’s homes for them, with a small charge for other purchases they’d made on the High Rd.

Our ambition is to have the market up and running by the beginning of May and to run a six-month pilot and for the market to generate enough income to pay a market manager to run it.

Support from local businesses

Ben Bullman, General Manager of George IV, was on the platform representing local businesses. He said he believed the pub should be the heart of the community; he wanted George IV to be part of this and said Fuller’s would support anything which would help re-invigorate High Rd. He’d be happy to open the pub early to provide traders and customers with breakfast and to extend the creche facility which the pub already offers on Sundays for children to engage in art and craft activities.

John Fitzgerald, who runs Snappy Snaps and has been a retailer in Chiswick High Rd for more than thirty years, said “I love the positive energy. It’s what we need. It’s a no-brainer, a very positive thing”, a comment which was echoed by the meeting, attended by 120 – 130 people, with many traders among them.

Anette Megyaszai, who runs Chateau, on the corner of Linden Gardens and the High Rd, was not able to be at the meeting but gave her enthusiastic support: “people don’t just come to a hight street to shop any more. What attracts them is an experience, especially one they can put on Instagram, so a flower market is perfect”.

Dominic Hughes, who runs Pot Pourri florist, was at the meeting and has given the Flower Market his enthusiastic support. Spencer and Jason Wheeler were also there. They too have said they’d be willing to take part, although they already run a stall on the High Rd.

Effect on parking

Debbie, who lives in Elliott Rd, said she thought the flower market was a great idea but would be worried about people parking in her street. “A super idea, but it will need traffic management”.

Ollie agreed that the market would need the council to design a traffic management plan to prevent that. Having the market would probably mean losing 37 parking spaces, but the inconvenience to drivers would be offset by more people coming into the area, bringing trade to the shops and restaurants. The disabled parking spaces would need to be relocated nearby. We think we have sourced private land for the traders to park their vans so they would not be taking up public parking spaces.

Other ideas to revitalise the High Rd

Speaking for The Chiswick Calendar, I introduced some of the other ideas we’d received: a proposal for a Vintage Clothing market, Art and Crafts shows and a Vegan food market. I also talked about our Club Card scheme, which enables local businesses to offer deals and discounts to subscribers to our newsletter, as a way to encourage people to spend their money locally.

Ruth Mayorcas suggested we follow Twickenham’s example and have guided tours of Chiswick, available on market days. Charmian Griffiths, a Blue Badge guide in the audience, said she would be very happy to do guided walks.

The organisers of the meeting have recorded these and other ideas, to see how we might progress them.

Photographs above: Left to right Bridget Osborne, Ben Bullman, Karen Liebreich, Ollie Saunders, Andy Murray

Landlords and Tenants association

Ollie Saunders also spoke about an idea which is separate, but related, of setting up a Landlords and Tenants association, to share information about rents and rates in the area, so that new traders starting up here aren’t persuaded to pay higher than the market rate.

That idea too was enthusiastically supported. Kambiz, who runs Lizard women’s fashion in Turnham Green Terrace, said he’d been running his shop for 36 years. “The only way Chiswick can flourish is to have independent shops. Rents are the biggest problem”.

Diane Barton, who owns the dress shop De Joli, spoke also about the problems she’s had with rent and rate hikes and the unfairness of it.

Jeremy Day, who took over as Commercial Director at Whitman & Co at the end of last year, told the meeting: “The future is rosy. Rents are coming down”. He said that in some shopping centres rents were down 30% and pointed out that when Brentford Stadium opens, it will bring thousands of people to western end of the High Rd. Jeremy will be working with Ollie to set up the Landlords and Tenants association.

Ideas needed for the Turnham Green part of the High Rd

Elizabeth Whittaker, who used to be a member of the old Chiswick Traders Society, said she thought the market was a wonderful idea, but that we should think more widely about the whole of Chiswick.

Mandana Kalati, who owns The Wild Bunch café opposite Turnham Green and is surrounded by empty shops, put in a plea for something to regenerate the other end of the High Rd which is dead because of planning blight. Lendlease bought the Empire House site, winning a court action against redevelopment, terminated the leases of the shops, cut down the mature trees on the site and then failed to develop it, leaving a parade of empty shops for several years.

Lou Reddan, who works and lives in the Old Packhorse pub, also spoke about how depressing it was at that end of the High Rd. “I would like to see something happening on Turnham Green – festival events such as Ealing Comedy Festival and maybe artists using the shop fronts”.

Leader of LB Hounslow Steve Curran was at the meeting, as were several of our local councillors, Sam Hearn, Ron Mushiso, Ranjit Gill and Joanna Biddolph. The meeting was chaired by Andy Murray of the Grove Park Group.

Photographs above: Karen Liebreich MBE, Ollie Saunders, Bridget Osborne

Who’s Who In the Flower Market group

Ollie Saunders

Ollie Saunders has lived in Chiswick for 15 years and is a commercial surveyor with 25 years of experience in London advising commercial property owners and occupiers. He leads the UK commercial valuation business at JLL (which used to be called Jones Lang LaSalle). He has recently worked on the acquisition of Olympia and the IKEA deal in Hammersmith, as well as valuing theatres in the West End and data centres in Slough, and portfolios of garden centres. He lives in Devonshire Road and has shared an allotment on the Promenade since 2007.
He helped form a group called Freehold in 2011 which kept him busy on improving diversity and inclusion in the real estate business for the LGBT community and now has more than 1,200 members with a mentoring and employer engagement programme.

Karen Liebreich MBE

Karen Liebreich MBE is best known in Chiswick as the project manager of a number of community projects which have been highly beneficial to Chiswick. She set up Abundance London to collect unwanted fruit from people’s gardens, involving local schools to do the picking, to use the fruit in preserves and juices rather than letting it go to waste.

She has organised a programme of ‘guerrilla gardening’ projects and planted trees, shrubs and flowers in public spaces around Chiswick. Along with her former co-director at Abundance London, Sara Cruz, she designed and organised the installation of the Chiswick Timeline mural on the railway bridge at Turnham Green Terrace. Last year she refurbished the area of common ground beside it, replanting it, buying new benches and installing a community artwork on the wall, rechristening it the Turnham Green Terrace Piazza. When she’s not doing all of that, she is also quite a prolific author.

Bridget Osborne

Bridget Osborne edits The Chiswick Calendar. The website is a ‘celebration of life in Chiswick’ with daily listings of all the events going on in the area, from the biggest and most commercial to the tiniest event put on by local community groups and charities. The Chiswick Calendar also puts on its own events: a monthly Jazz club in the Boston Room of George IV, annual art and photography exhibitions at the Clayton Hotel Chiswick, a Media Club discussing journalism and ad hoc current affairs discussions.

The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme is a Shop Local initiative, to encourage people to spend their money locally. See all the current deals and discounts on offer here.

Also involved in the group are surveyor Steve Nutt, landscape gardener Stefano Marinaz and events organiser Amanda Parker. Other local professionals are supporting the venture in a wider group acting as consultants.

We are in the process of setting up a website for the Flower Market. If you have any ideas or comments about the market or about revitalising the High Rd, or if you would like to volunteer at the market

email us at: info@chiswickflowermarket.com
follow us on Twitter @ChiswickFlowers