Wapping Docklands Market

Wapping Docklands Market

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Petition to
Mayor of Tower Hamlets

Why this petition matters

Started by Will Cutteridge

Dear all,

Firstly thank you for your support, we have been overwhelmed with the response to our campaign. We have been asked by many of you to supply details about the troubles we have been experiencing with the council. For those who wish to get their facts straight, and understand the issues experienced in intricate detail, please see below:

There are two issues here:

1. TENS - Temporary Event Notices. These allow us to host live bands and sell alcohol.

2. Renewal of contract for 2022.


Let’s start with the Temporary Event Notices. We apply for our TENS monthly in advance, and have had them approved every Saturday since April 17th. We were informed by the licensing team that if we can obtain a personal alcohol license, we will be able to apply for up to 52 TENS on the same site (thus covering us for the entire year). We have now obtained this, and submitted our TENS for Wapping Wonderland (the market operating this December every Friday, Saturday and Sunday) on 22nd November. We then received refusal of these TENS on 1st December (a day before we launched Wonderland) on the grounds you could not obtain more than 15 TENS in any one calendar year, despite previous advise stating 52 (please note here that we have had over 30 TENS approved this year, putting the licensing team in breach of their own legislation). Fortunately this has now been rectified, and we are licensing 3x3m plots of the site, enabling us to move every 15 TENS.

However, the games continue. Unfortunately a resident who lives in Newlands Quay has raised a noise complaint, based on one market (30th October), with environmental health. This is the first and only noise complaint we have received after 9 months of operation. Environmental Health have used this complaint as sufficient basis to refuse our TENS, this is now the battle. Please note we work incredibly hard to be seen as an asset to the local area, not a nuisance, this in our view is the very purpose of a market. With this in mind we strictly keep our live music to a max of 70 decibels, this has remained consistent since our launch on April 17th.

To reiterate, without these TENS we cannot host live music and sell alcohol. Unfortunately without these components we will have to close as the market will not generate sufficient business to sustain our traders.

We are in the process of applying for a premises license which will allow us to trade every weekend without the necessity to obtain TENS.

Contract renewal:

Onto our next point of discussion, our contract. There’re a number of key issues here highlighted below:

1. Fees

The council currently charge us fees based on how many pitches we have in the market, effectively taxing us on our expansion, after hard work to drum up sufficient trade. This is currently £10 per pitch, the council are proposing it be increased to £12.50 in April. For reference, the rent we pay is £350, or £10 per pitch (whichever is greater). The council have also proposed the ‘bottom fee’ increase to £375 a week, another £100 a month into the councils coughers. 

As many of you know, the area has low natural footfall, and thus it’s a big task to generate enough business for our producers. Something that also comes at considerable cost. That having been said, our marketing is working, and we are able to run a viable business in Wapping, but we cannot sustain irrational rental uplifts from the council. For reference, Southwark Council charge £300 fixed per week (with no additional fees), as do Hackney. All we’re asking from the council is the same terms.

Furthermore, the council also profit from our electricity use, and capitalise on alcohol traders as referenced below. It’s also worth noting here operations that demonstrate a similar level of charitable and community benefit in other boroughs, are often offered free of charge.

2. Alcohol

Sadly the strangulation continues. The council also charge our lovely alcohol producers an additional £50 charge on top of what we need to charge for our pitches. As many of you will have seen this has lost us 3 alcohol producers over the past 9 months. See below note from Ulrich Schiefelbein, founder of The Krafty Braumeister circulated to the council many months ago:

‘The Krafty Braumeister Ltd is a small business based in Leiston/Suffolk. After being hit by Covid we are now trying to increase our sales to survive the crisis of the hospitality industry.  
Our core business right now is to sell our products at farmers and street food markets in London and we are increasing our presence to grow our business in East London. We have managed to build a customer community at Wapping Docklands Market and would very much like to continue trading there on Saturdays. Fact is that the sales are not enough to justify a market fee of £120 per Saturday, consisting of £70 market fee plus £50 of alcohol duty.
We are trading at other London boroughs like Lewisham and Camden. They do not charge an alcohol tax.
During the pandemic there has been no relief on beer duty. Our business also did not prosper from a VAT reduction that was granted to food traders.
We kindly ask for an exemption from the alcohol tax to support a small business to survive.’

As mentioned above, this was sent to the council many months ago when we first discussed our contract renewal. No regard was given to this letter whatsoever, and the council have even proposed an increase in April to £65. We have tried to negotiate on this, they have refused to be flexible.

3. Term

Finally (we promise), due to the success of the project, we have kindly asked for a 3 year license so we can further invest in the project and local community. They have come back refusing this on the grounds they may like to redevelop the site in the future. We went back proposing a clause in the contract allowing a relocation of the market on redevelopment grounds. This was refused, they are only willing to offer a years contact (thus we risk going through these incredibly lengthy and frustrating conversations again in a year!).

So, that’s it really. As you can all imagine we’re totally at our wits end with the incomprehensible red tape, increased costs and obsessive bureaucracy demonstrated by Tower Hamlets. We’ve been left with no alternative but to reach out to our fantastic community of supporters, and I would like to stress again here that Cllr Abdal Ullah has been instrumental in supporting our business and helping us through this process. Thank you Abdal. 

That just leaves us to say thank you to all of you, very very much. Let’s get these TENS approved, and a new contract agreed for the new year. If any of you would be so kind as to send an email to mayor@towerhamlets.gov.uk , with messages of support/complaints we would be immensely grateful.

We absolutely love being part of the Wapping community, it’s a wonderful place to live and work and we hope to operate your local market for many years to come.

Thanks again.


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