Urban Food Fest gets three more years at Cowcross Street plaza

A view of the market taken from the edge of Briton Street. Photograph: Islington Council

A street food market in Islington has received permission from the Town Hall to operate for a further three years, in the face of continued opposition from neighbours living near Cowcross Street.

The market will be run by specialist food operator Urban Food Fest, which now has separate permission to use its own power supply – potentially avoiding the need for noisy generators. 

Objectors had sought to curb the market’s operation on the basis of noise issues, the size of food trucks “impacting the appearance of the area”, and concerns of anti-social behaviour.

One, who was representing several flats in a neighbouring building, said: “The main issue we have had is the noise complaint which has been acknowledged now regarding the use of standalone temporary generators. 

“The objection here is to the vehicles in particular, because we feel the vehicles change the character of the market, are detrimental to the quality of this particular open space, and if there were to be 13 stalls, 13 vehicles here, it would just end up looking like a car park.”

They added: “If you walk down the street now, you see shop after shop has closed unfortunately because of the situation we have been in, so why are we now allowing a situation where more people would be able to come in their vans to the area, set up a stall and take away from more permanent locations on Cowcross Street?”

A representative for the applicants, real estate company Newsteer, said: “We had a consultation event with neighbours in November and the response we had at that event was very positive. All of those power supply elements can serve every single one of the market, so there will be no stall that cannot access this supply. 

“In terms of the shops closing – competition is not a planning consideration, so regrettably I do not think that is a matter for debate.”

Denmark House residents addressing the recent planning committee meeting stressed that they “vehemently objected” to the use of the alleyway beneath Denmark House by the market, citing security concerns.

Quizzed on the council’s powers to resolve this dispute, Town Hall officers said its use was a private civil matter in which they are unable to interfere, and therefore it is beyond the control of councillors to make a ruling.

Newsteer also pointed to a number of public improvement works installed over the past 18 months, including additional lighting in all alleyways leading to and from the market’s location at Cowcross Yard, which it is hoped will reduce anti-social behaviour.

According to Islington Council officers, Cowcross Street has been a market area for centuries. Smithfield Market was in existence by 1123, along with a separate cow market after which Cowcross Street is named.

Committee chair Cllr Angela Picknell said: “It seems to me that we have vans coming and going whatever happens. I’m not sure the issue of whether it is local people or not in the market is a planning concern. 

“I don’t think that is something we can concern ourselves with, but as they are likely to be coming by van anyway I don’t think the distance is something we can really consider.

“The ability to use clean electrical power rather than generators is a definite move forward.”