Campaigners battling to save the UK’s only Latin village have launched a last ditch legal bid to stop it being bulldozed.
Traders at Seven Sisters Indoor Market – also known as the Latin Village – yesterday launched a challenge of a compulsory purchase order, which allows Britain’s biggest private residential landlord to pull down the market to build 196 flats and a shopping centre on the site.
Locals have been campaigning against Grainger’s project for 13 years – forming the Ward’s Corner Community Coalition, named after a department store that stood on the site – but challenging the CPO is the last chance for them to stop the market being demolished.
They have previously managed to overturn Haringey Council and Grainger’s plans, but a final CPO was issued on January 23 this year.
The campaign group Save Latin Village & Wards Corner has already had the backing of the UN who expressed concern that closure of the market would leave people of Latin American origin without their cultural hub. Experts said that the redevelopment was ‘a gentrification project [that] represents a threat to cultural life’.
The traders have instructed specialist property litigation solicitors from Hodge Jones & Allen to fight the case. A request for a Judicial Review was issued yesterday at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Victoria Alvarez, 48, who has run businesses at the village for over a decade, said this was the last chance to save their community in a ‘David versus Goliath’ battle.
She said: “We will never give up and they will have to come and force us out. I don’t think anyone at the council or Grainger thought that this would be a difficult battle. They never thought we would fight this hard or long. I certainly haven’t come this far to give up when running the last 100 metres of a marathon.
“Launching this judicial review is our last chance to fight for everything we believe in. Grainger are giants in comparison to the traders and this is a David versus Goliath battle. This has taken 13 years but this is our last ditch bid, our last throw of the dice. It really is make or break.”
The market is home to 60 units containing independent businesses including restaurants, nail salons, bakeries and money exchanges. Pueblito Paisa – or Latin Village – employs around 160 people.
There has been an offer to move the market to a new location, but traders claim rents will go up and they will be put out of business.
The Traders have launched a fund to raise money for the final legal fight and are asking for people to donate.
Victoria added: “The biggest achievement of the campaign is that it has empowered the community to come together and fight for our rights. There is a terrible injustice here and we have to fight it. Even if we die fighting, at least we have fought to the end.
“This isn’t just about traders losing their livelihood, it’s about losing our community. If the market died the socio-economic impact will be devastating. They say they will give us a new home, but I have done the calculations and our rents will go up by 55 per cent. They are taking everything away from us and have tried to make our lives as difficult as possible. Our lives have been a total nightmare. They have humiliated us as they have treated us like we are nothing.”
In addition to the traders dozens of families – many of them from the BAME community – have been evicted from their affordable homes under a Compulsory Purchase Order. Despite this the planned development does not include any affordable housing
Mirca Morera, whose father is a trader at the Latin Village, said: “The village is supporting a group in society who are often paid less than the minimum wage and don’t have very much. It provides child care for those who can’t afford it and a place for the community to meet. Children play together rather than being home alone. That may not sound important, but when you have limited means this place is everything. It’s a place where people can almost feel like they at home in Colombia. A lot of the community are in the cleaning sector so are really up against it. This village gives them a sense of belonging.
“This isn’t just a market, it’s a place where the Latin American community in London and beyond rely on to be able to continue to celebrate their culture. The gentrification of this area has already had, and will continue to have, a discriminatory impact on the BAME community. It will also disproportionately impact BAME women and children. We desperately need the CPO to be stopped.”
Jayesh Kunwardia, Head of Housing and Property Law at Hodge Jones & Allen, said: “This development will decimate the Latin American community in North London, destroying its cultural hub. This gentrification has already been criticised by the UN, who recognised the cultural importance of the Latin Village, yet still the council choose to bury their heads in the sand over the impact this development will have. We have launched this challenge to try to get justice for the Latin American community and ensure that their important cultural centre survives.”
Hodge Jones & Allen have been assisted in this appeal by Marc Willers QC of Garden Court Chambers.