Filed: Monday, 13th November 2006
By: Mark Jones
The Queens’ Pub on Green Street is a familiar and welcoming watering-hole with football fans, market-goers and traders alike. As pubs go it’s unpretentious, a place of genial banter and camaraderie.
Yet, it now transpires that if Sir Robin Wales (Mayor of Newham) and his property developer friends at St Modwen Properties get their way the Queens’ will be no more. Another piece of East End heritage lost thanks to the stupidity and cupidity of a council that claims it is doing it for us - Bollocks! Football fans are certainly not gullible and an increasing number of them have begun to wake up to what is really meant when a council in conjunction with developers use the word “regeneration”.
The threat to the Queens’ Pub is part of sorry saga that is fast approaching a scandal. It all began back in 2003 when the historic Queen’s Market site was effectively offered for sale in the Estates Gazette. No one disputes the fact that in recent years the market has looked jaded and run-down. Cleaning has been drastically cut back by the council and re-cycling has been near non-existent (Newham had the worse recycling record in the kingdom in 2004-2005, a mere 6.2%). Yet, for all the neglect from the borough the market has still managed to generate approximately £250,000 profit, a profit that has always disappeared off into council coffers rather than being re-invested in the market. Local historians will tell you that the original market began circa 1905 in Queen’s Road next to the station and that the existing covered market wasn’t built until the late 1960’s. Like the environment in which it finds itself the market has undergone considerable changes over the years, but one thing is for sure it is very popular and can rightly claim to be unique in that is the most ethnically diverse in London.
Successive governments around the world have dabbled in social engineering with various degrees of success. These attempts to establish racially harmonious communities have invariably proved as futile as an alchemist’s attempts to turn bass metal into gold. In Queen’s Market there has evolved a remarkable community. Over the course of the market’s one hundred year history successive waves of immigrants have made the East End their home; ranging from Russian Jews escaping the Tsarist pogroms at the beginning of the Twentieth century to Zimbabweans fleeing the tyranny of Robert Mugabe in 2006. Rather like a coral reef this multi-layered and multi-faceted community is a fragile form, easily destroyed, yet near impossible to replicate. Little wonder then that it was chosen as the cover story of the October edition of the in-flight magazine of Continental Airlines (estimated readership 4m passengers).
Instead of seriously considering the option of incremental refurbishment Sir Robin Wales opted to tout for a developer and chose the far from saintly St Modwen Properties Plc. A little detective work soon reveals that Edgbaston-based St Modwen promote themselves as ‘regeneration’ specialists. In recent years their shareholders have done very well from St Modwen preying on cash strapped local authorities prepared to ‘flog-off the family silver’. Sadly, the St Modwen cure-all rarely tends to live up to the hyperbole, promotional literature, and promises. A visit to Edmonton Green Market is quite an eye-opener in this regard. The litany of controversy includes developments and proposed developments at:-
Dudley Castle and zoo
Farnborough Town Centre
Stoke City Football Club
Swindon Town Football Club
The West Pier, Brighton
It is worth noting that St Modwen profited from the demise of the Rover Group.
The Mayor of Newham boasted that he was offering people a high quality development featuring an iconic building, he evidently has a very different definition of “quality” to the rest of us. True to form the consultation has been at best limited and has often resembled something of a loaded dice. To date the obfuscation of the council in regard to rents, service charges, parking and social housing has understandably added to the concern of residents, shoppers and traders alike. The initial scheme featured an Asda superstore, a market-in-a-mall and 220 executive apartments. Local people were horrified, so much so that when The East London Communities Organisation (Telco) held a public commission of enquiry into the scheme the following was concluded by Silvana Dellanegra, Co-Chair, Telco Commission:-
“the views we have heard utterly mis-trust the proposed plan, and we have to share the views of our communities.”
A number of locals felt so concerned by what was going on they got together to form the Friends of Queen’s Market (FoQM). This disparate group all feel a remarkable sense of the injustice of it all. Pauline Rowe, FoQM’s secretary told me that; “I have shopped in the market for 35 years and I hated the thought of the council taking away such a valuable resource.” FoQM’s campaigning resulted in a 12,000 signature petition against Asda (the largest petition in Newham’s history). A New Economics Foundation report The world on a plate (2006) revealed that not only was Asda on average 52% more expensive that the market, but that the market generated millions for the local economy. Sustained adverse publicity resulted in Asda pulling out from the scheme in June and St Modwen have been unable to find a replacement partner.
For those football supporters who make the regular pilgrimage to Upton Park parking is a real headache. Newham council has made little effort to deal with this. A recent Channel 4 investigation shows why – in the financial year 2004-2005 the council pocketed £587,360 through parking tickets issued on Green Street. I can’t imagine a further 350 apartments (the latest number being quoted by St Modwen) will help matters. Then again one gets the impression that the developers think that Hammers fans are about as informed as a bunch of extras from a Chas & Dave knees-up video.
Sadly, the local paper, the Newham Recorder has been muted in its reporting of this issue. There is a perception that its Editor, Colin ‘Nipper’ Grainger has been frightened from ensuring robust reporting of the market issue for fear of ruffling feathers in the Town Hall, such action might result in lost advertising. Sir Robin and St Modwen think that they can get away with it and regularly have made use of sophistry, semantics, half-truths and downright lies in order to try and get their way. I certainly can’t imagine that Anthony Glossop, the Chairman of St Modwen is worrying about the fate of the Queen’s Pub or market traders – he is much more likely to be thinking of ways to spend the £533,000 he was paid last year!
I could go on, but I find myself thinking of Ron Bolwell (68), tenant landlord of the Queens’ Pub. He’s a decent bloke who deserves our support. Scottish & Newcastle Brewery currently own the pub, but St Modwen want to negotiate a sale, failing that they will seek a compulsory purchase. It’s time for football fans to take a stand and show Newham council and St Modwen the Red Card.
God save the Queens’ – and if you’re offering, mine’s a pint!
Mark T Jones, E6.
Further information about this issue can be found out:-
For a little more back ground on St Modwen Properties Plc be sure to visit:-
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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