Stirrings under the Westway are getting louder as a group of nearly 200 locals gathered at Cafe Nova this week to ask for more of a say in what happens to a Portobello Road market area. Calling itself Westway23 the group formed three weeks ago to fight plans by the Westway Trust to knock down the iconic canopy roof over the vintage clothes, young designers, organic vegetable stalls and sitting area on Portobello next to the Westway (pic). More than 15,000 signed a petition last month against the plan, and at the meeting someone said that ironically, as locals feel anger at the top-down decisions being made that are affecting Notting Hill lives and could fragment our community, the fury and injustice caused is pulling the community together.
The proposed new space, still reserved for traditional market stalls, will be called Portobello Village . It is in the early consultation stage and will look ‘for illustration purposes only’ like this … space.westway There is a parallel scheme in Brixton called Brixton Village. “But villages are not built on concrete,” someone pointed out.
Speakers at the meeting felt there had been minimal consultation with local residents about a major change to part of the 23 acres under the Westway (hence the name, Westway23) which was given to the community after so many houses were knocked down and there was so much disruption to lives 44 years ago when the Westway road was built. The Westway Trust is a charity set up for the community and to safeguard the area. Some at the meeting argued that this is no longer the case as the Westcay Trust now also serves several other boroughs. There was a strong feeling that the Westway Trust has produced something that excludes people from the community and there was a general feeling of mistrust.
The meeting was chaired by Niles Hailstones of One Voice Community Collective who says: “We are united as we are all part of this area. In 1971 the land was given over to the community, that is the history of the 23 acres … it was left to the community to rebuild what was left. Even the room we are in now, Cafe Nova, is being closed down. This will have a serious effect on the community. People will have to move to other areas.”
Here are some of the comments made during the meeting:
* An architecture firm was chosen by Westway Trust. “There should have been an international architectural competition for such an iconic site. Come up with something really imaginative. The public could vote for the one they like,” someone at the meeting said, “instead of just thrusting something on the community.”
*Several important facilities on land next to or under the Westway have already been given marching orders by Westway Trust, including the West London Stables riding school and RBKC has moved Maxilla Children’s Centre and Nursery School, you can sign the petittion here … save-maxilla to Golborne, where there is no garden. Cafes and restaurants are not having leases renewed, even after large investments in them. Many jobs will be lost.
*Westway Trust is a charitable trust for the local community but now benefits surrounding London boroughs. The group asked why ameneties are closing down in Portobello, which is the area the trust was set up to protect.
*Someone else argued: “If we build over the place we can no longer use the space for a variety of uses and the canopy provides open space.”
Following the meeting Phil Dibsdale, Senior Development Consultant for Westway Trust says: “We will be working closely with the local community to ensure that the proposed Portobello Village improvements reinforce the distinct and authentic character of the area and will include more provision for local independent workspaces, market stalls and start-up businesses together with space for community events, arts and performance. We will continue to consult widely with the community and listen to their views. Our proposals would ensure that the Vintage Market stays at the heart of the area but it is recognised that improvements are needed to ensure the area is sustainable for the future.”
Dibsdale says the Westway Trust is working closely with the vintage market operator who, he says: “Is fully supportive of the Trust’s proposals. Market traders often struggle to make a living and many of the tenants in Portobello Green Arcade find it a difficult trading environment and often do not open outside of market days. The lack of activity around the public spaces on these quieter days discourages visitors and encourages anti-social behaviour.”
The early stages of the consultation have included discussions with local groups and a public exhibition where early stage ‘concept’ drawings were on display. Dibsdale says these images are first thoughts and do not represent the final look or feel of the proposals. “Some of the feedback we received was that when people saw some of the concept drawings they thought we were aiming to attract high street chain stores into the area or to create a ‘mini Westfield’,” says Dibsdale. “We would like to reassure everyone that this is most definitely not the case. There are no plans to attract high street multiples. As a local charity, Westway Trust employs over 200 people and last year alone invested £6.8 million in community education, skills, parenting, arts, health, volunteering, sports and fitness programmes. Westway Trust cares deeply about the future of the area we manage on behalf of the community.”
You can join Westway23 or follow the debate here: facebook.com