Prince does a U-turn on Redbridge market plans

Cllr Jas Athwal, AM Keith Prince and MP Wes Streeting at the unveiling of the plans for Redbridge. P

Cllr Jas Athwal, AM Keith Prince and MP Wes Streeting at the unveiling of the plans for Redbridge. Photo: Market Place Communications - Credit: Archant

A politician has withdrawn his support from plans to bring three iconic markets to Redbridge.

Keith Prince, London Assembly Member for Redbridge and Havering, previously said the borough is the “natural choice” for the rehoming of Billingsgate, Smithfields and New Spitalfields markets.

However after visiting residents in Hainault Road, Little Heath, he did a U-turn and said he can no longer support the proposals.

“When the leader first put it to me I thought it was an exciting project and would bring lots of employment – 3,500 jobs – and £500,000 of business rates,” he said.

“It was explained to me that it was on green belt land but on balance I thought it was an acceptable sacrifice.

“I have spent quite a bit of time looking into the markets and while there are benefits for Redbridge there wouldn’t be as many as 3,500 jobs.

“When I saw the residents at the site, a few things came into focus.”

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Mr Prince said if the site is chosen by the City of London Corporation the markets would be built upon a working farm growing rapeseed.

It is also a place of scientific interest and the markets would be “quite damaging to the eco-system”.

“I didn’t appreciate it will cut our green belt in half - you wouldn’t be able to walk from Redbridge to Havering on green belt land,” he added.

“If you were cynical it could open the doors for more development green belt.

“I would love it to come to Redbridge, it would be fantastic, but it is a great idea in the wrong location.”

Along with Mr Prince, MP for Ilford North Wes Streeting and Redbridge Council leader Councillor Jas Athwal previously unveiled plans for the markets to move to the borough.

Following the news of Mr Prince pulling out of the scheme, Ron Jeffries of Aldborough Hatch Defence Association said he hoped the other two would follow suit.

“It is good news that Keith Prince is supporting residents,” he added.

“We hope Wes Streeting and others will follow though – it makes sense.”

Mr Streeting said bringing these “great markets to Redbridge could bring enormous benefits for our community”.

“I understand there is some opposition and I’m keen to understand their concerns,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with people and I’m grateful for their patience and their understanding that I’m somewhat swamped with a Brexit shaped elephant in the room.

“I hope to give this issue my detailed attention once the next week is out of the way.”

Councillor Athwal said: “Having the three most iconic markets in the world in Redbridge can only bring good and we hope we are successful and we will try our best.”

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