Market developer tells critics: I'm no ogre

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Fashion magnate Richard Caring, one of the country's most successful yet publicity-shy businessmen, has spoken out to defend himself against claims that controversial plans to redevelop London's world famous Camden Market will destroy its unique heritage and turn it into a soulless shopping mall.

Critics claim the plan to transform the main Stables Market, one of London's leading tourist attractions, will irrevocably alter the nature of the historic site.

Mr Caring has been stung by criticism of the redevelopment, scheduled to start next month. Musicians Kate Nash and Blur's Alex James and Graham Coxon are among the high-profile names who have spoken out against the scheme which is feared will destroy the unique "boho" heritage of the area.

But Mr Caring insists there is nothing to fear from the overhaul. "I am not an ogre. We want to support Camden. We don't want high-street chains involved. That's not what this development is about. We are certainly not dropping a new shopping centre in there, not at all. I want Camden to be the fashion capital of the world and we are getting there."

Mr Caring, 59, made a fortune supplying Sir Philip Green's high-street clothes empire. His business interests include The Ivy and Le Caprice restaurants, and a recent spending spree saw him acquire Wentworth Golf Club and the Annabel's group of Mayfair nightclubs.

Independent stallholders are worried the revamp will lead to rent rises and terms that only the richest retailers can afford. Rebel stallholders have circulated petitions protesting against the changes.

Coxon described the plans as "a mediocre, hideous, layman's, modernist piece of crap," adding: "What's going to be in it? More Starbucks coffee houses and Carphone Warehouses? It should be full of tailors, shoemakers, guitar-makers, cheese-makers and independent shops, but they are not going to do that." Nash said: "I'll never shop there. I'll never go in there because I'll feel like that's not why I go to Camden."

Mr Caring said the consortium developing the market should have talked to traders before revealing the plans, but he insisted the character will not change. He said: "We want to encourage small businesses. We want Camden to work for young traders but we just want to be allowed to do it. The development that goes up will help about another 100 small businesses. It will be based on arts and crafts."

Last week it emerged that Mr Caring has acquired one of London's glitziest restaurants, Gilgamesh, at the heart of Camden Market, after a dispute over £700,000 of unpaid rent.