This place has long been famous for the affordability and friendliness to people from all kinds of social background and ethnicities. However, for many years, gentrification planning has been constantly threatening everyone in the market.
On a Friday night, shop owners can grab a drink with frien
ds without worrying about their children playing along the aisle. With 60% of business here of Latin based, the marketplace is also home to many other nationalities, speaking 175 different languages, from all over the world.
This inconspicuous building started to foster migration in the beginning of 2000s and small business has been thriving ever since. Colombians, the majority, as well as black, mixed, Jamaicans, Indians, Peruvians, Iranians, Nigerians, etc. are cohabitating harmoniously. While some of the retailers are British-born, everyone here is a minority.
Unfortunately, a regeneration plan might totally change this “paradise” in no time at all. The investor, Grainger, is planning to turn the area into 196 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail space full of big names and luxury brands.
As early as 2003, an announcement about a redevelopment plan led to an ongoing conflict among the store owners, organizations and the developer, Grainger plc. Four years later, the company and Haringey Council entered into a development agreement about the regeneration, further worrying the community.
Feeling insecure about the market, Wards Corner Community Coalition (WCC) was founded in 2007 aiming at saving the market. Since then the council’s handling of Grainger has always been scrutinized by WCC to make sure that the market receives a fair treatment.
This organization worked actively on empowering the community and developed their own community plan in 2008. Unfortunately, it was undetermined by the local planning authority (LPA).
Some progress was made after the Equality Impact Assessment in 2010. In the report, “Th
e Court of Appeal ruled in our favour quashing the Grainger application” showed that the Council had not properly considered the diversity of the site.
However, in 2016, the situation became worse when a compulsory purchase order (CPO) was issued to all the stores in the market to assist the demolishing process favouring Grainger’s plan.
During this time, Latin Elephant, a Charity advocating for the rights of migrant and ethnic groups and in particular Latin Americans, in processes or urban change in London has been supporting traders at the market in the areas of urban policy and research. Whilst social enterprise Latin Corner has been campaigning to promote greater awareness about the traders’ situation.
About the market
The business covers almost every aspect of life: real estate, restaurants, barber shops, grocery stores, cafés, clothing shops, money exchange, etc. “Minority ethnic business clusters often contribute to community cohesion and are the underpinning of diverse communities in inner city areas”, Patria Roman, a chair from a Latin American charity, describes to The Prisma.
Both rents and the commodity are very affordable at the moment which explains why a large number of foreigners choose to move to this neighbourhood and why this area is so crucial to those who are struggling with their livelihood.
Additionally, there is an interesting fact about the Spanish speaking community; despite of the large number, Latin Americans as an ethnic group have been officially recognized by merely four boroughs out of thirty-three during recent years. This prevents them from being involved in the mainstream society.
The Borough of Haringey, where Seven Sisters located, is not even one of the four; this makes the existence of the market as a hub for strengthening Latin power and increasing a sense of belonging of the society even more important.
Victim of the gentrification
Having been established in London for over 40 years, Latinos are still one of the most invisible groups to the government. This leaves those immigrants suffering from the exclusion of the society and the development of the plan.
Mirca Morera, a market trader and leader of one of the campaigns to save the market, shares her thoughts to The Prisma: “I think regeneration at the moment has this development model that is not including minorities… you are marginalizing minority groups, I am seeing that becoming a phenomenon that exists in London particularly.”
Patria contends that “regeneration schemes in London are taking place in deprived boroughs where there is a high proportion of diverse ethnic populations. Thus, minority groups are disproportionately affected by regeneration schemes in London.”
She also thinks that the anti-immigration discourses and Brexit per se are not directly linked to the minority-excluded development, but the political climate somehow heightened the status quo.
Since the rent is confirmed to increase to the market rate, the prices are going to increase. Therefore, many shop owners need to increase the price of the commodity and hire less employees to afford the booth unit. They are mostly small businesses with little power against the capitalized reforming plan.
Consequently, workers will lose their jobs, individuals will lose their spot for socializing and culturing and this area will lose its Latin American identity. “It’s not going to be good, if we move, we lose customers and to get customers again takes time”, said Farhad Zarei, an Iranian vendor next to Pueblito Paisa Café.
According to the plan of Grainger, everyone in the market needs to vacate without a guarantee of returning at all, let alone a reasonable price rate and period of time. All the previous decoration of the stores will be redone with no compensation for even the newly-refurbished ones.
In addition, Seven Sisters is not the only an endangered district in this alleged diversified metropolitan. Inhabitants’ life in Brixton has also changed tremendously before and after gentrification. Unchecked capitalism totally destroyed the small Indian business, and former residents were forced to move to the suburb being isolated and lost.
Elephant and Castle is facing the same, if not tougher, situation. As the biggest Latin hub in London, it was influenced by regeneration even before 2003. Despite people’s strong demonstration, rights of the traders are not considered and they received zero provision out of the reforming process.
According to Roman, “there are 96 Latin-American ownerships of about 150 migrant ethnic origin … Our communities are more than ever feeling the effects of large regeneration schemes that excludes us from the very spaces we help to build and revitalise.”
The fight continues
Fortunately, these places are receiving a lot of support from different organizations and some politicians. Various fund raisings, the objections of the organizations and Ken Livingstone’s visiting, all make a difference little by little.
2000 signatures of objection against the CPO won the traders in seven sisters a chance to make their needs be heard. On 11th of July, a public inquiry will be held by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (SoS) and giving more detail about the displacement of these shop owners addressing the issue of CPO.
With many inspiring cases ahead such as Queen’s Market, Southbank Skatepark and Shepherds Bush Market in protecting their culture integrity, there is still hope for the campaign to succeed this time.
As Mirca expressed: “there is no low or high, culture is culture, we got the right to be here, we are not moving.” She further claimed that it is no longer a local problem when the developers are commodifying everything and building clone towns everywhere paying no attention to the beauty of the diversity those minorities have brought.
Although the current state is far from satisfactory, immigrants are trying the best to maintain their customs, create their space, defend their multicultural community and for the Latin Americans, keep their identity.