In a stunning victory for local campaigners, the supermarket chain Asda, owned by the US conglomerate Walmart, have announced that they are pulling out of the hugely controversial scheme for Queen's Market in Upton Park.
It is clear that sustained pressure coupled with compelling data produced by the New Economics Foundation has resulted in Asda throwing in the towel.
Newham Council's plans for London's most ethnically diverse market have been fiercely resisted from the outset. To many the proposals championed by Newham's mayor are seen as a genuine threat to social cohesion. It has also become clear that the council scheme fails to make economic sense. Some 12,000 shoppers have signed a petition (the largest in Newham's history) against the plans.
Traders and campaigners alike are ecstatic about the news that Asda-Walmart have pulled out and now believe that it is only a matter of time before the whole project is scrapped. The proposed developers, Edgbaston-based St Modwen Properties Plc is already facing problems over Edmonton Green Market and Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre. St Modwen had planned to demolish the existing covered street market and replace it with an Asda-Walmart superstore, over 220 executive apartments and a market-in-a-mall. Local people feel there has been minimal consultation and are angry that the Mayor of Newham seems intent on foisting his detested scheme on their market.
A press statement by Friends of Queen's Market said:
"This is a stunning victory when you think of what we are up against. We have seen off Asda, now we need to see off St Modwen Properties, for they have already ruined Edmonton Green Market and we're not going to allow them to ruin our thriving market. As for Sir Robin Wales and Newham Council, well their arrogance and pigheadedness beggars belief. Sooner or later they will have to face up to reality, people don't want this appalling and ill-conceived scheme and we will fight this all the way."