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Academic produces expert statement to challenge council policies

Seven Sisters road

In an expert statement delivered at an on-going public enquiry in Haringey, north London, Prof Alexandra Xanthaki last week stressed that a compulsory purchase order for the redevelopment of a market vital to the culture of London’s Latin American community is against current standards of international law. The case is important as it underlines that planning law actions must also take into account national but also international human rights law.

Prof Alexandra Xanthaki produced together with Minority Rights Group International, the leading NGO on the rights of minorities, an expert report on the minority rights of the Seven Sisters Market Traders, many of whom are of Latin American or Hispanic background, and the impact on those rights of Haringey Council’s decision to redevelop the market.

Through detailed analysis, the expert statement concludes that it is clear that the Seven Sisters Market Traders are entitled to the protections afforded to minorities under international law.

In an extract from the statement, Prof Alexandra Xanthaki and Lucy Claridge, MRG’s Legal Director, concluded "In our view the compulsory purchase order should not be confirmed. It will disproportionately impact the Latin American traders without the provision of measures that will adequately protect the rights of the London Latin American community. This is inconsistent with the UK’s obligations towards minorities; in particular the requirements to take measures to provide additional protections in order to protect their minority rights, especially the right to enjoy culture freely".

The owners of stalls in the Seven Sisters Indoor Market in Tottenham have been involved for over a decade in a legal battle with Haringey Council and multinational developer Grainger, who want to demolish the market and build a modern shopping centre and apartments. The market area currently includes the abandoned former department store Wards Corner, a row of shops, and about 35 Latin American food, cafe and retail stalls, some established three decades ago.

In October 2016 the site was served with a Compulsory Purchase Order by the Council. The traders objected, and the Department for Communities and Local Government subsequently set July 2017 as the date for a public inquiry to determine their fate.

The redevelopment plan contemplates a space for a new indoor market of the same size, and Grainger says it will find a temporary space while work takes place. In a February 2017 visit to the market, stallholders told MRG that moving — albeit temporarily — would be bad for business, and they suspect that inevitable rent hikes will make the new market unfeasible for their modest businesses. Latin American or Hispanic background accounts for almost 56 percent of those employed in the market. The market operates as an informal cultural hub for London’s Latin American families. Many Colombian traders of the Seven Sisters market have settled in London after been forced to flee the violence in their country. They have told the experts that the supportive and nurturing environment of the market had helped them recover from trauma, and provided a sense of belonging.

The legal experts also claim that the Council has not met its obligations to guarantee the right of minorities to effectively participate in the development decisions affecting them. Many of the market traders speak only a basic level of English, yet many of the Spanish translations of the official documents related to the proposed compulsory land acquisition were provided to them after the deadline for public submissions had lapsed.

Notes to editors