Queen’s Market ‘beats Asda store’

Queen’s Market ‘beats Asda store’ 

Samantha Thorp
Regeneration & Renewal

Queen’s Market in east London has a more beneficial economic impact than would be created by an Asda store the council wishes to place on the market’s current site, according to research published last week.

Think-tank the New Economics Foundation claims the findings of its research into controversial plans to redevelop one of London’s East End markets underscore the dangers of basing regeneration policy on supermarket expansion.

Newham Council has put forward plans to sell Queen’s Market to developer St Modwen as part of a wider mixed-use regeneration scheme with an Asda supermarket as its centrepiece. The plans have come under fire from some traders and residents (R&R, 13 January, p9).

NEF’s research found that Queen’s Market employs one person per 10 sq metres. An average food superstore has one member of staff per 19 sq metres, it says.

In a comparative shopping exercise, NEF found that fruit and vegetables were 52 per cent cheaper at the market than at a nearby Asda.

Report author Guy Rubin said: ‘The market delivers a tremendous amount of economic value to the local economy in one of the most disadvantaged parts of the UK.’

The research argues that the proposals will rob the market of its character, reduce visitor numbers and harm the local economy.

But a council spokeswoman said: ‘The existing Queen’s Market building is in need of extensive and costly refurbishment. The redevelopment plans mean this will be done at no cost to residents.’

Rubin said the NEF research offers valuable lessons for planners and policymakers around the country who are vulnerable to making ‘flawed decisions’ based on the assumption that large supermarkets generate the greatest benefits for local communities.

As well as being valuable local economic assets, street markets make a retail area distinctive and attract people from outside the local area, Rubin said. But to capitalise on their potential, councils must invest in effective management, marketing and consultation with street traders, he added.

A spokesman for trade association the British Retail Consortium said: ‘Street markets meet their consumers’ needs, but supermarkets also meet their consumers’ needs. And remember, these are not two sets of of consumers: many are the same people.’

– The World on a Plate: Queen’s Market is at via www.regen.net/doc.