Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market will defy council and continue

Image above: Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market

The organisers of the Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market, RMS Markets, have said that they will continue to hold their weekly markets in Ravenscourt Park, Hammersmith on Saturdays and in Bishops Park, Fulham on Sundays, despite Hammersmith and Fulham Council withdrawing their licence to trade.

The Ravenscourt Park food market was set up in September 2020, after the success of the Bishops Park market. It closed during lockdown and was set to open again on 17 April. When the Prime Minister made his announcement about the third lockdown on 4 January, food markets were allowed to stay open, but RMS Markets say they were told by Hammersmith & Fulham on 11 January that they must close.

The council then gave them notice on 17 March that they could reopen, giving them the dates for 17 and 18 April (for Ravenscourt Park and Bishops Park respectively) for reopening. The council was itself tweeting about the markets reopening.

Image above: Tweet by Hammersmith & Fulham Council; Ross Spurrier, founder of RMS Markets

Then suddenly, the organisers say, the licence was withdrawn and they are mystified as to why. Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market spokeswoman Fiona Campbell told us:

“It’s all very strange. We don’t know why. We ran Bishops Park market successfully for eight years and we always had a very good relationship with the council, or so we thought.

“On 23 March last year we were told the markets were closing. We were notified we could reopen in June. We started Ravenscourt in September and people loved it, it just took off.

Image above: Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market

“Devastated” at being told to close

“We are absolutely devastated by this decision and our traders are heartbroken.

“We challenged it and were told it was a decision made by Steve Cowan (Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council) personally, but when we approached him he didn’t seem to know what we were talking about”.

In the period the market was open, she says they had six inspections in seven weeks:

“Not police or Covid marshals, but health and safety, food hygiene. They should come and see the Market Manager and say why they’re there but they didn’t announce their arrival or departure.

“Nothing came of it. We passed them all. The only criticism was that the boys selling mayonnaise shouldn’t shout”.

Closed ‘on public health advice’

Hammersmith and Fulham Council told The Chiswick Calendar:

“The farmers markets remain closed on public health advice, but we look forward to re-establishing such attractions in our parks when the current health crisis allows.

“The farmers markets were originally introduced to encourage foot fall but as the pandemic has taken hold, pressure on space within our parks has become extremely high. We have therefore prioritised all the space in our parks for the facilitation of sport, fitness, play and recreation.

“We also recognise that the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on local shops, cafes, and restaurants so we will take this opportunity to review the purpose of the markets and develop a new set of outcomes so we best support local businesses and residents.

“Once this has been developed the opportunity to operate markets in council parks will then be advertised through a competitive tender process.”

RMS Markets deny they have had a detrimental effect on local shops. They say pre-existing local traders who were worried about them opening have since told them how happy they are that their presence has increased fotfall in local shops and cafes, rather than the reverse.

Image above: Bishops Park Farmers Market

Hammersmith and Fulham acting “unlawfully, unreasonably, disproportionately and in breach of contract”

The organisers of Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market have taken legal advice. The advice they’ve received is that there is nothing legally to stop them from holding the market as usual, unless the council takes out an injunction to stop them. There are determined to tough it out and see if the council is prepared to go that far.

They consulted Robert Griffiths QC, who had this to say:

“This is an example of a council trying to get, through the back door, what it couldn’t get through the front door. It is action taken under the illegitimate cover of COVID-19 regulations to achieve an otherwise unlawful purpose.

“There is no justification, in either public or private law, for what this council is seeking to do. It is acting unlawfully, unreasonably, disproportionately and in breach of contract.”

The market organisers say their traders are very upset, as many of them have no other outlet for selling their produce and rely on the market for an income. They also say they have been inundated by support from customers.

“Hundreds of our customers have written to Steve Cowan” Fiona told us. They have set up a fundraising campaign to pay for their legal bills: justgiving.com where they have already met their initial target of £5,000.

Images above: Bishops Park and Ravenscourt Park Farmers Markets

Extra Farmers Market opening at Hogarth Club

Fiona told us that Hounslow Council has approached them to run a market in Old Market Place on Chiswick High Rd, on the fourth Sunday of the month. As of May 2021 there will be three Sunday markets there – Chiswick Flower Market on the first Sunday, the new Antiques and Vintage market on the second Sunday and the new Cheese market on the third Sunday.

The Hogarth Club in Airedale Avenue has also declared it is happy to host them.

“The Hogarth is all too well aware of how tough the last year has been and are keen to help us and our traders get back to work whilst bringing something new, vibrant and safe to residents of this lovely area of Chiswick” said Fiona.

They have a pool of around 50 traders out of whom only 30 can take part in the Ravenscourt Park market on any given weekend, so having the Hogarth Club as an additional venue will allow more of their traders a chance to sell their produce.

“We can see this is something the local community wants” Hogarth Club Director Tim Slater told us.

“We are trying to make sure that a good community event doesnt’ die a death”.

The Hogarth Club will accommodate 16 – 20 stalls just beyond the barrier at the entrance to the club on Airedale Avenue between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm on Sundays, startng Sunday 2 May. The Ravenscourt Park Farmers Market will continue in its usual spot at the entrance to the park on Kind St on Saturday 1 May from 10.00 am – 2.00 pm, unless the council gets an injunction to stop them.

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

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