Friday, November 17, 2006

A new era, or the end for London's Oriental City?

Note: This story has since been updated here.

The rumours have been flying around for months now but Oriental City in Colindale, north London, could be set for a major re-development. What this means for the Asian shops and restaurants there at the moment is not certain, although the developer has apparently promised that all the current tenants will be allowed to return. It would certainly be a huge loss to the community if we were to lose what must be (in my opinion) the best food court in the country, if not the world!

The planning application was submitted in July 2006 and you can see what the developer has planned for the site here:

In response to the plans, a campaign has been set up to protect the interests of the businesses that currently operate in Oriental City:

When a similar re-development of London's Chinatown was announced, there was a lot of outrage and false rumours. In the end, most of the shopkeepers affected by that project accepted a pay-off and moved out, but neither the rumoured High Street supermarket nor the proposed 'Shanghai' themed shopping mall materialized to take their place.

The Independent reports:

The owners of Oriental City have stated that the present Asian businesses will not be forced out, saying the new Oriental City would be "bigger and better", with 30 per cent more space allocated to the Asian businesses, "retaining the important cultural and community spaces," according to a spokeswoman. The development will eventually include private housing, a primary school and a community centre. She said there had been numerous meetings with the local community and the sub-tenants over the past 20 months.

Jason Tang, a Chinese takeaway owner, shopping with his wife, Debbie, and their daughter, said: " It is very important to keep this place going because it is somewhere new Chinese immigrants who don't speak English can come and find others like themselves. The people who run this place are only concerned about the money, not the future."

I hope that the final decision, whatever it is, preserves the unique Asian aspects of the existing mall and that we do not end up losing this valuable and popular destination for the Chinese community in London.

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