Family businesses under threat from regeneration of Elephant & Castle

Scores of family businesses and stalls would be ousted under the plans to demolish Elephant & Castle shopping centre.

There are currently up to 65 businesses within the shopping centre and nearby Hannibal House.

And outside the shopping centre there are another 35 market stalls at lower ground level in an area known as The Moat, and three kiosks at ground level.

Many have faced months of uncertainty as the closure of the old complex was announced and then put back.

Yeiddi Mendez has run Money Remittance, an international cash transfer facility, since 2003.

She said: “We are sad about it, but we are having as strong support as possible. Many of us hope we can stay longer. We like this community – there are a lot of African and South American traders and residents – and many of them are our customers.

“We need more information about what is happening. We hope we can find another premises nearby – but people are used to coming here. We don’t know if they will want to go to another location.

“Another issue is that the service charge is almost as high as the rent, when the cleaning is not to a good standard. That is ridiculous. There is not even a Santa or music to attract more people this month.”

Luz Amalfi Villamizar, 59, has run Lucy’s hairdressing for 25 years – meaning she has done close to 50,000 haircuts there. She had hoped to retire there.

“I will just have to start again. I hope we will get help and are relocated not too far away.

“Our customers have had a long time to get used to the centre closing now, even though it was a shock at first. Many businesses moved out as soon as demolition was announced.

“The Latin American community is very worried but we have tried to carry on and be positive.”

An umbrella group, Latin Elephant, said not enough affordable commercial units were being provided, and not enough account was being taken of the diverse community there.

Southwark council have employed consultants Tree Shepherd to support the traders while they are in the centre and to help relocate them when the centre closes.

Chief executive Colin Crooks said: “We have been trying to reassure retailers about relocation and help them market themselves better. We would also like to be able to help the market stalls, the arches and shops in The Moat. But it will be a year before they are asked to move. There could be places in the revamped Perronet House and we are in talks with Lendlease about having affordable space in their Artworks development.

“There could be a three-year gap between closure of the shopping centre and units opening in the new mall, so most will not want to wait that long for a new premises.

“The people here have been very solid and stoic. It is a very diverse community. Things will be a lot easier once the jigsaw of the development is in place. We hope that if we can get the timing right, it will be fairly seamless.”

* In our piece in last Friday’s South London Press we stated Tree Shepherd were employed by developers Delancey when it was in fact Southwark council. We apologise for the error.

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