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Published: 21 February 2008
The view from one of the destroyed buildings
The view from one of the destroyed buildings
Now that the dust has settled: what next?

Aftermath of the Camden Fire -
Police rule out arson • Traders wait for financial aid • Landlords say its too soon to map market’s future

CAMDEN Market Holdings (CMH), the major landowners in control of most of the land damaged by the Camden Town fire, yesterday confirmed they had been “broadly” looking at redeveloping the devastated Canal Market even before it had been wrecked by the blaze.
The admission came as traders and residents began asking how the company plans to treat the land scorched by the dramatic inferno last weekend.
CMH said it was far too early to say how it would deal with the land and said they still had surveyors and experts combing the site which is close to the Lock.
Its surveyors and architects have been warned off even thinking about replacing the scorched market, known for its small stalls selling clothes, posters, records and leather goods, with a modern design – however tempting the idea might become or lucrative it might seem.
Some of the traders hit by the fire have speculated that the company had already earmarked the canalside for redevelopment and that it was next in line for a makeover, similar to the changes made by CMH to the nearby Stables Market which have been a source of controversy due to the use of glass and steel in the design.
A CMH spokesman said yesterday: “We have broadly looked at how that area might be developed but there were no detailed planning applications submitted. How we build the land up is not the focus at the moment – the traders are. We have spoken to at least 50 per cent of them already.”
The fire ripped through the canalside market and nearby buildings. The badly-damaged Hawley Arms is now safe from demolition.
“The reaction from traders has been different from one to the next,” said the CMH spokesman. “Some have not been as badly affected as others, while some have lost their entire livelihoods. We are seeing what we can do for them and we are waiting to see how much the Mayor of London will contribute.”
It is not clear what the broad plans or whether they included preliminary talks with Camden Council’s planners, who can advise on whether certain designs are likely to ever gain building permission.
Labour ward councillor Pat Callaghan said that she was worried that the area might become “sterilised”.
She said: “I have seen all different age groups going there and enjoying it. I don’t want to see big multi-national stores in there. I want to see independent traders continuing as always with a diverse range of products – and the council should be helping the traders restore and develop their business.”
Police said yesterday (Wednesday) that the fire, which started at the back of the market, was an accident and have ruled out arson.
But the debate over what happens next is likely to run for several weeks – if not months.
Leather coat seller Sunny Gulati, who has traded in the market for 11 years, said: “Nothing concrete has happened. The building is considered too dangerous to go back to at the moment. It will take time to recover. Most of the market traders have nothing to do. What we need is somewhere to trade. I have some savings and credit cards and I’m using them to get by.”
Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of the business interest group Camden Town Unlimited, who has helped run a campaign to encourage shoppers to keep coming to the large market areas unaffected by the blaze, said: “I wasn’t too keen on the proposals for the Stables but actually I like it now. As long as what’s built holds onto the character of Camden Town, that’s what is important.”
When CMH gave the Stables an overhaul, customers, worried that the relaxed nature of the famous markets could be lost, signed petitions against the designs
Richard Caring, the millionaire clothing tycoon who is an investor in CMH, said the changes were designed to make Camden Town a centre for independent traders but it did not stop pop stars Kate Nash and Graham Coxon and hundreds of regulars joining the campaign against them.
CMH’s spokesman said: “It is just not our focus at the moment. We are still assessing the damage and we are working with Camden Council to see what can be done.”

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