Sunday Market’s future in doubt as development plans draw closer

Dagenham’s popular Sunday market could be relocated or axed in three years to make way for homes as part of the massive Barking Riverside development.

Bosses at operator Charfleet had sought a further renewal of its rolling five-year temporary planning permission but last week Barking and Dagenham council reduced this to three years.

The market, which has 600 stalls and up to 15,000 visitors every Sunday, has been based on the former Barking power station site in River Road for a decade.

However, the land is earmarked for the plan to create more than 10,000 new homes and community facilities in one of the government’s most important areas for redevelopment.

Charfleet director Kevin Kelly, who said the company had always been aware that its occupation of the site was temporary, said: “The lease rolls on until the site is to be used for a major housing development, but that isn’t imminent.

“We have just had the five-year review and will have the next one in three years’ time. We might be here for another 10 years, we really don’t know.”

He added: “It is quite useful for what we are doing to have a temporary planning consent. If we wait for a permanent consent to use the site for retail, we would probably get refused. But it is a good, economic use of a site that is temporary.”

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The operators pay a fee for the use of the plot to owner Barking Riverside, which will also lead the site’s redevelopment.

Mr Kelly said: “It is in their interest to keep us here until they develop the site. The issue here is that lots of people here base their living on the market.”

Council development management officer Philip Storey said the project’s progression depended on the economic situation, which has slowed plans, but he added: “Ideally, from our point of view, we would like to see it developed because that is what the plan intends, but we do not know the time scales at the moment. We are very unsure.”

Since Charfleet took control of the market in 1993, it has been moved twice, first from its initial site at the Royal Albert Dock in Beckton to Chequers Lane in 1997, and then again to its current site in 2002.

Mr Kelly said each move, rather than spelling disaster, had led to the market growing and he would look to relocate it within the area when another move eventually becomes necessary.

The market is so popular, coach operators bring shoppers to it from outlying areas of London.