By Nick Ferris
More than 40 traders fear for their businesses’ futures when Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre closes next week, according to a local charity.
They are due to be evicted from the centre when it will be flattened from September 24 to make space for a new development.
While the council said 45 traders had been moved to nearby premises, 33 have not been offered new shops ‘owing to space restrictions’.
But independent analysis from Latin Elephant, a charity which supports ethnic minorities in the area, has produced a database of 48 traders that have served the community for years – and who now have nowhere to go.
Doubts around the council’s calculation have arisen over the fact that at least one trader – Sam Botchway, proprietor of Sam’s Computer Lab for the past nine years, currently features on a large poster that claims he has been relocated, when in fact he said he has received no such support.
He said: “I saw myself on the sign today, but it’s not true. It’s very annoying – they say they are giving me a place, as if I am one of the lucky ones.
“They are using me when I have nowhere to go and three kids to take care of.
“Most of my colleagues are in the same position. Money from the council will run out, we need a new place nearby to access our clients.”
Other businesses that are closing include Jenny’s Burgers – famed for its £1.50 burgers – and The Castle Tandoori, both of which have offered meals to local people at prices that are not matched elsewhere.
Both were offered temporary sites in a space that were just a fraction of their current premises, and would not have been viable for their businesses.
And when they close, no new business will be able to access the same rent that allowed them to offer such affordable food.
Santiago Peluffo, co-director of Latin Elephant, said: “All the traders received an initial payment of £3,000.
“What traders want is access to their market, to continue trading in the area that they want.
“When it closes, they do not know where they will go – they will likely go on universal credit. They have children, they have families. It is very difficult.”
Mr Peluffo said just two years ago there were 130 traders in the shopping centre. Many have already left.
On Friday, a group of traders are going to City Hall to present alternative proposals which include a market space situated in the middle of the Elephant and Castle roundabout that could house 45 traders.
Several politicians including Sian Berry, the Green candidate for Mayor of London, have promised their support for the proposals.
Edmund Attoh, the proprietor of Edmund’s Fashion for the past 20 years, supports the alternative proposals. He said: “People who have been here for a long time didn’t get nothing. That’s what we don’t understand, that’s why we are frustrated.
“I applied for a space, and anything they asked, we give to them. They turned us down. But they didn’t say [why].”
In a joint statement, Southwark Council and the developers nonetheless maintained: “We can confirm without question that all qualifying businesses have been relocated or offered relocation options.
“Many of the businesses being cited by third parties did not qualify, did not apply to move or they have already left (in some cases a long time ago).”
Pictured top: A previous protest to save the Elephant and Castle shopping centre
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