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Nadia on... Sneinton Market's Redevelopment

3 November 20 words: Nadia Whittome
photos: Fabrice Gagos

In her monthly LeftLion column, Nadia Whittome, MP for Nottingham East, discusses issues effecting both Nottingham and Westminster. This month, she discusses the planned revelopment of Sneinton Market...

Like many Nottingham people, when I have a rare weekend off, I head to Sneinton Market. I’ve spent countless Saturdays there, with friends, my mum, or on my own, discovering something new every time. I have found beautiful and bizarre gems in its countless independent shops, bought food from all over the world at the legendary Murat and eaten way too much fairtrade vegan chocolate at Luisa’s. I’ve purchased some of my most prized possessions there, like my framed Brian Clough print from Art of Football, which I proudly display in my Westminster office. And there is no better hangover cure than a large £4.50 breakfast at The Avenues.

The market – which has existed since the mid-19th century – has become a real cultural hub and a centre of Nottingham’s social life. Over the years, it has constantly evolved, attracting new businesses and inspiring new initiatives. Nottingham Street Food brings people together with global cuisine and music. Twice a month, herbivores like myself can eat our weight in food at the vegan market. Football fans will never forget the euphoria of the outdoor screening of the 2018 World Cup. Maybe England didn’t bring the cup home, but our own Art of Football certainly brought the World Cup atmosphere to Nottingham. 

The market is a place where people work, socialise, go on dates and cure heartbreaks with food, friends and retail therapy. But now its future is under threat.

IQ Accommodation – a private student housing company offering single rooms in Nottingham for £149 per week – has been granted permission to build more flats in the market area. If it goes ahead as planned, the market would change substantially. Our one-of-a-kind Murat Food Centre, a city treasure which provides jobs to many BAME and migrant workers, would be demolished. A number of exciting creative businesses would be forced to relocate or close down. At a time when unemployment in Nottingham has already nearly doubled as a result of the pandemic, we can’t risk even more people losing their livelihoods.

The market is a place where people work, socialise, go on dates and cure heartbreaks with food, friends and retail therapy. But now its future is under threat.

But it’s not just traders and other people working in the market who would be affected if the redevelopment goes ahead. The architecture of the place would change drastically, no doubt impacting on its atmosphere and community spirit. The historic market site would be demolished, giving way to a six-storey apartment block. Currently, the market is colourful, friendly and buzzing. If the plan goes ahead, it risks becoming cold and soulless.

We shouldn’t fall into the trap of blaming students for gentrification – I’m very glad that Nottingham is home to two universities and thousands of students from across the country and the world. They are an important part of our city, contribute tons of talent and help boost the local economy, including our vibrant nightlife and creative scene. However, the Vice-Chancellors of both the University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University have stated that there is no need for more student housing. There are already 362 student flats in the Market alone, and many more across the city. It’s clear to me that the plan is motivated by profit, not genuine necessity.

I know I’m not the only person who feels strongly about this. Many of my constituents have expressed their worries, and a petition to stop the development has attracted over 5000 signatures. I have written to the Council to raise my concerns, asked for a proper consultation process, and organised a public meeting with Nottingham City Council and residents. I’m also in contact with IQ Accommodation and I’m urging them to rethink their plans. 

I understand that these are difficult times and councils often have to make hard and unpleasant decisions. But the campaign to save the market is about preserving the soul of our city. We can’t risk Nottingham losing its special character that makes our city so attractive – to students and non-students – in the first place. 

What’s happening in Nottingham is not unique. Across the country, important landmarks and community hubs are being destroyed to make space for more luxury flats. With each of them, something is irreversibly lost. We can’t continue to sell our cities to private developers, at the expense of workers and residents. It’s time to reclaim our right to common space, to creativity and joy. Long live Sneinton Market, the beating heart of Nottingham.

Sign this petition to oppose the redevelopment of Sneinton Market.

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