A New Covent Garden foliage wholesaler is being forced to relocate part of his business offsite due to reduced access and health and safety regulations when the flower market moves to an interim site on 3 April.
Bryan Porter of Porters Foliage, whose family has been trading at the market for four generations, has decided to transfer some of his stock to a storage facility when he moves into the interim facility as part of New Covent Garden’s ongoing redevelopment.
The interim site will house traders until 2022, when they will move to a permanent building. Last week the move-in date was postponed from 27 February to 3 April to allow time for operational tests and to avoid Mother’s Day trading disruption.
Porter said: “My trading ability has been restricted so much that we will be relocating some of our operation offsite because I can’t actually operate at the new location.
“They pushed me to the extent of looking to leave the market completely. They compromised my trade so much that I was considering whether a move away from the market was actually more commercially viable than staying at the market.”
Porter is worried he will not be able to efficiently transport his products from the loading bays into the trading hall due to less favourable access than at the current site. He is currently searching for a suitable storage facility – probably in southwest London.
Part of the problem is that he will no longer be allowed to trade from both inside and outside the market building – as is currently the case – due to health and safety regulations. The market's other foliage wholesaler GB Foliage is likely to be affected in a smiliar way.
Concerns about access were echoed by cut flowers trader Dennis Edwards, who is head of the flower market’s tenants’ association. He claims tenants were not properly consulted on the building plans, and he is concerned that it will difficult to move stock in and out of the new trading hall, which will have just four doors as opposed to twenty at the current site.
A lack of drainage could be another issue, Edwards believes. “We’ll only have one little tap and a sink at each stand but there is no proper drainage at the new market,” he said. “It’s more domestic, than a wholesale market.”
The market authority’s communications manager Alastair Owen responded to traders’ concerns in a statement, saying: “We have consulted with tenants since the start of the redevelopment project.
“We appreciate there are real concerns – this is the most significant change for the Flower Market in 40-odd years. That’s why we took the decision to move the date. Any bedding in issues will now happen after Mother’s Day, during a quieter trading period.”
On the issues of access, drainage and Porter Foliage, he also had the following responses:
Access: “There is plenty of access to the new flower hall – there are fewer doors as the design of the building is different.”
Drainage: “In the current flower market, none of the stands have water or drainage. The drainage in the new market is certainly not domestic. Moving the opening date means we have time to show that it is adequate.”
Porters Foliage: “It is not possible to replicate the way in which the foliage companies currently work. Allowing them to trade outside would restrict movement of people in and out of the market. Again, having more time means that with Bryan we can carry out trials to see how it will work for him.”