Council Leader Clare Coghill, trader Asghar Jilow, and the controversy over Walthamstow Street Market

In recent months, there has been a good deal of controversy about the future of Walthamstow’s famous street market and the shops that surround it.

LBWF is involved in a strategic review, but many traders remain unimpressed, arguing that this is pointless because it fails to address two debilitating problems, which they believe are Mini-Holland and the authorities’ failure to clamp down on crime and ant-social behaviour.

One trader, Asghar Jilow, has been especially vocal, and I reproduce below (with permission) some of his correspondence with the new LBWF Leader, Cllr. Clare Coghill.

What is particularly interesting about this, perhaps, is less the issues themselves, and more the way that Mr. Jilow and his fellow traders have been treated.

In the past, LBWF was much criticised for its high-handed stance, and failure to listen to local residents. For example, one review found that ‘The Council is seen as difficult to engage and slow to respond where information is sought or where criticism is levelled’, with many as a result concluding that ‘the Council does not listen…and that decisions are not made based on effective consultation’.

If Mr. Jilow’s experiences are anything to go by, little has changed.

Sent: 2 June 2017 12:18

Dear Clare Coghill,

Re: Agenda for the meeting of 6th June 2017 concerning Town centre planning.

By luck, it has become to my attention that the above meeting is arranged for a consultation…to get the opinion of the Business community for the betterment of trading environment in High Street. I as a shop keeper for the Eastman Army Camp at 52 High Street would have very much liked to attend this meeting for an answer for the damage that caused by Mini-Holland project to our business on High Street. But, I heard that you were not attending this meeting, also only a few people from the Business community will be invited,  and more importantly, the only agenda of the meeting will be town-center Strategic planning issues,  the attendees can ask only one question or speaks out once,  no  issues related to road closures and Mini-Holland project could be raised and discussed.

I would like to express my deep disappointment from such an arrangement as it can only suggest a pattern of ill-thought practice that has been frequently utilised deliberately by some councillors and officials on this borough to ignore our misery and defend undefendable policies. Seemingly, now we are living in Taliban-controlled Zone in Afghanistan or better to say in North Korea.

Early on this year in January 2017, I sent you a petition of about 200 business owners of High Street about the damages Mini-Holand project has inflicted on our environment and businesses, but regrettably, we received no attention to our plight that exacerbated by total disregards and inactions of the councillors of this ward including you.

This meeting can only act as a silencer in the later stage by people like yourself to claim that you have had already consulted the business community for your future projects and no later complaint could be justified and listened to.

Yours sincerely

Asghar Jilow

Sent: 6 June 2017 16:22

Dear Mr Jilow,

Thank you for your email regarding the High Street Strategy business engagement session planned for today, Tuesday 6 June.

In an earlier email in response to your queries about the Mini-Holland scheme, Cllr Loakes mentioned that the Council has started work on a High Street Strategy, which aims to develop a long-term strategy for the Street Market and Walthamstow High Street.  This work demonstrates the Council’s recognition of businesses’ vital role in maintaining a vibrant and prosperous town centre and its commitment to continuing to support High Street businesses.

As you are probably aware, Walthamstow High Street has over 650 businesses and 350 market traders operating along the High Street.  Over the last few months the Council have worked with specialist street market consultants who have carried out surveys with traders, shoppers, visitors and residents.  During this time Council Officers have met with representatives from the Market Management Board to gather their views on how we can work together to improve the High Street environment, increase footfall and trading for market stall holders.

The workshop on 6 June forms part of this early engagement with traders and businesses on the High Street Strategy.  It will involve a small group of market traders and small businesses, representatives from the Market Management Board and a range of businesses currently operating in different sections along the High Street.

The intention of the workshop is to gather early views of businesses and market traders on the High Street Strategy.  The workshop will focus specifically on the potential for extended operating hours; Sunday trading; marketing, promotions and events and animation along the High Street.  The agenda is specific and focused on the High Street Strategy and does not extend to Highways schemes.  Whilst time is limited to cover these topics, and we want to allow all attendees to present their views on these agenda items, no restriction will be imposed on the number of questions or points each attendee can make.

Officers from Regeneration, Business, Street Trading and Communications will attend the workshop to guide the discussion and collect views, but no Councillors are involved in this early engagement stage.

The views of traders and businesses will be collated and used to inform proposals for the High Street.  These proposals will be subject to wider, more formal consultation later in the year.


Cllr Clare Coghill

Leader of the Council

Sent: 6 June 2017 22:25

Dear Clare Coghill,

Thank you very much for your email received on 6th June 2017. In response, please note the following:

…Concerning the time, I could find no encouragement by your email to attend the meeting on 6th June 2016 at 3-5 pm, because I received your email at 4.22 pm.

…I do not know who determines which business owner to attend or not to attend these meetings and then what eligibility criteria is in action for these meeting…I was unofficially told that I was not welcome or invited for this meeting for two reasons: first, because I am going to close my shop soon, and then the subject of my concern cannot be raised or discussed.

…I have been hearing this strategic planning story for over 15 years now, and I have attended in a few time-wasting meetings related to this concept in the past and finally, I gave up. Frankly, nobody then took it seriously.  In recent months and weeks, very few people have heard of the Council intention for a new strategic planning for the betterment of business environment in High Street. I personally have asked the opinion of three employees of the council on this new initiative, they all laughed at me with a strange look and used a familiar term to describe it to me in one word which I cannot say it here because it is very rude.

…I suspect that you have got some of your facts correctly. Today, I decided to check the accuracy of your figures as it may be indirectly used to discredit the petition of about 200 Business holders in High Street Mini-Holland Project.

Your figures do not match…the reality of the situation on the ground.  Today, I personally counted 75 stalls only on the whole High Street from the top to the bottom of the market. You can easily check the accuracy of my counting with the tickets issued to the traders by the Market office today (60 stalls from Palmerston Rod Junction up to Hoe Street Junction with High Street, and 15 stalls between Black Horse Road junction and Palmerston Road Junction with High Street.

Your figure may come from an outdated registry list. Even if we accept the accuracy of this figure for the sake of the argument, then it would be interesting to hear an explanation from your side for the absence of 275 traders out of 350 which is about 79% of the total…What has made them stay away in such high numbers?

Your other figure also appears to relate to another High Street…There are only 103 shops between Palmerston Road junction and Black Horse Roads Junction, and 178 stores between Palmerston Road Junction and Hoe Street Junction including all stores in Shopping Mall. Therefore, the total number of the stores comes to 282 which are very far away from your figures of…650 businesses that you have mentioned in your email. Now, I can easily see that my petition of 200 Business holder constituting over 55% of 358 businesses in total in High Street is much more credible or highly representative of Business community’s opinion in High Street than any surveys that you or Cllr Loakes are using to brush aside any concerns raised by us about Mini-Holland Project.  If your figure is accurate, then in each store that I counted today, there should have been at least two different businesses in operation, which were not the case in my careful and close observation of each store.

…No[t] any amount of publicity and marketing will make any improvement in the business environment here on High Street, if you as decision makers make it harder and harder day by day for residents of this borough and shoppers from the neighbouring borough to come here for their shopping on High Street.  As long as you carry on ignoring this very simple equation, then no positive outcome could be expected in any form and shape in the end. Excluding the issue of Mini-Holland-Project from any planning for the betterment of the business environment in here will end up in another failure, the waste of time and resources.

 I, as a business owner on high street never has been aware of any consultation, or study and surveys were done by the council with our engagements that you mentioned in your email. I am not alone on this issue. Apparently, we are living in two different parallel worlds and only a few people with some privileged links to the Council (unknown to many of us) know about such things.  None of the surveys you were referred to makes sense to me and many others while we all are the witness for quite the opposite facts in our daily life here. I have had personally talked with more than 1000 residents, business owners and my own customers all of which expect two were saying the exact opposite of what we have been hearing from the council officials about Mini-Holland Project during last 6-7 month.

 yours sincerely

Asghar Jilow

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