In our last blog post we detailed how Up the Elephant and other campaigners had written to the University of the Arts, London (UAL), informing them that at least 28 traders had not been relocated new premises, as they face the closure of their businesses, to make way for the demolition and redevelopment of the shopping centre. Analysis by Latin Elephant puts the number of traders in peril at between fourty and fifty.
All the displaced traders (bar one) come from black and ethnic minority backgrounds and the campaigner’s letter demanded that UAL withdraw from the redevelopment, which includes a new UAL campus, in line with its Black Lives Matter statement “We aim to build our anti-racism commitments through collective engagement into actions that make a meaningful difference.”
No reply from UAL
Nearly a month after the letter was sent no reply has been received. We are printing below the stories of six of the displaced traders, in their own words, to prompt UAL into giving some thought to those who are losing their livelihoods so that they can benefit from shiny new premises. Southwark Council and developer Delancey might also want to take heed.
My name is Nassim Cheraitian, I’ve been trading at Elephant and Castle market for over 20 years. The closing down of the Shopping Centre, for us, wasn’t good news, because they haven’t helped us. For the last three, four, five years business has been down, we’ve been losing, losing… they promised us they would help to find us to find a new unit but they didn’t. I applied, they asked us for all our details […] we provided them with everything. After that they said that there isn’t space for everyone. And it’s been left like this. We don’t have anywhere to go. They [the council] gave us £3000, but honestly it’s not really [been helpful]. £3000 is nothing — three years ago they told us they would help us, so all that time we’ve been waiting, the business has gone down, we’ve been losing money, losing customers every day, and we were waiting to get something back. Instead we got £3000. I don’t have any plans, as I’ve been waiting to get this promised help from the council […] we’ve been here for too long for them to leave us like this […] [my customers] are unhappy, they think it is unfair to us, we’ve been here too long to be left with nothing—no shop, no unit, nothing.
My name is Shapoor Amini, I’ve worked at this market since 2001. These people promised us so many things, they said we’ll give you a space, we’ll look after you guys, but they’ve done nothing for us. Some people who were [trading] here for one year, two years, 6 months, they got a space. Me, I’ve been here 20 years, and they gave me nothing; they just said sorry, sorry, you still need to wait. And I don’t know what’s going on. I had someone who worked for me who got a space! But I’ve been here for twenty years and nothing. I applied so many times—I’ve made calls, been to the council, been to the office, done lots of paperwork […] been to countless meetings, and still nothing. I don’t know why not, they never talk to us face to face. They sent letters out […]some people got something, others didn’t […] everybody knows me here […] customers come to me as say ‘where is your new space?’, and I say I don’t know. My whole life has been spent in this market, in this area, and now I don’t know what to do. It’s very difficult for me. I have a kids, a wife… they said if you find yourself a shop we will help you. But at this late stage how can I find a shop? […] they promised us too much. Places are asking for a £30,000 deposit, it is very difficult.
My name is Edmund, I’m working here [at the market] over 20 years. Things are very difficult, they gave a space to some people, who’d been here 5 years, 4 years, 2 years, 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. We don’t know where we are going now. I applied for a space, and anything they asked, we give to them. They turned us down. But they didn’t say [why]. It has affected us […] someone who has been here for 20 years, and suddenly they say go. We don’t know where we are going. It is very hard for us. My customers always call me and ask where we are going. But we don’t know what to tell them […] that is a problem for us […] we’re looking to them (the council) […] we need help.
My name is Mohammed Jamal, I’m working in the market the last 8 years. I’m in a very bad situation, because I haven’t found a relocation […] I’ve got four children, and i’ve got no choice [but to work at the market] because I’m more than 55 now, and can’t find any other suitable job, and I’ve also got an illness I take medicine for […] customers ask ‘where are you going’ I said I still can’t find relocation […] because the council says there is no more relocation, it is all full. But I am still waiting for something to come up. One lady told me I’m not even on the waiting list […] she said your application is on file but not on the waiting list […] because there are so many people and the relocation spaces are limited […] I applied many times for a space […] and a small shop is alright for me […] I sent many emails, but no answer. The feeling of not having anything is very painful. If someone doesn’t speak English very well, or is softly spoken […] I am very soft, not talking a lot. That could be why no-one helped me.
My name is Muhammad Raza, I’m working here since 2006. The market is dead now, before it was alright, but slowly, slowly they are closing down shops, big stores—Tesco, Poundland, Boots is going—it’s really dead now so it’s really hard to survive. And because we don’t have a space we don’t know what to do. Tree Shepherd and Delancey aren’t answering our emails, actually I emailed two days ago and didn’t get a response. This morning Tree Shepherd called me and said ‘if you find yourself any shop, we’ll help you’, I said which kind of help? Because I’m looking for a shop […] but if I look myself shops are £15,000, £20,000—I can’t afford that rent. And Tree Shepherd said they don’t have any affordable rents. If your looking for Castle Square or Elephant One, don’t even think about it […] they said ‘we’ll help you’, but which kind of help? I don’t know. This has affected my business, my life, my family, I don’t know what to do next.
Mohammed Al Waris
“My name is Mohammed Al Waris, I’ve been trading at the Elephant and Castle market for the past 15 plus years. Throughout these years I’ve been selling fashion accessories, and I’ve made friendships within the local community. Recently what happened was that they tried to demolish the shopping centre, and that affected most of the traders’ lives, I’m one of them. We haven’t been offered anything. We were asked to pick three different locations—Castle Square, Perronet House, Elephant One—they haven’t offered me none of them. They haven’t told me [why], they just said we haven’t got any affordable unit for you guys. At the beginning they promised us, and then we suffer for the past three years, they closed the subway (underground walkway) and the business going down by about 80%. Two years before they came with an application, saying that we going to definitely relocate you 100%. Now we have one and a half months left to leave the market, and we can’t get any help from Tree Shepherd, or from Delancey. Every time we talk to the they say ‘sorry we haven’t got anything for you guys’, so we can’t do nothing. I believe we are entitled to a place in this area, cos they are making millions from this project, why can’t they help these traders? These traders have families they are trying to look after. By kicking them out, they are destroying their family life […] I really hope they can think about these traders and help to move them to a place nearby the area, where they have their customers […] they say you can’t stay in the area because this area, like Central London, is going to be very expensive. So where should we go? We don’t know.”
Our campaign is to get Nassim, Shapoor, Edmund, Mohammed, Mohummad, Mohammed and their fellow traders new premises or suitable compensation for the loss of their businesses. The power to do this lies with Southwark Council, Delancey and University of the Arts London (UAL), but time is running out fast - the centre is due to close on 24 September.
You can help us by sending a Twitter message to the Southwark Councillors responsible for this fiasco:
- @peterjohn6 (Council Leader)
- @rebeccalury (Deputy Leader, Ward Cllr and Cabinet member for Equalites and Communities)
- @MerrilDarren (Ward Cllr and Chair of the traders panel that was supposed to support traders)
- @cllrmseaton (Ward Cllr and Chair of the Planning Committee)
- @JohnsonSitu (Cabinet member for Regeneration)
- @Leo_Pollak (Cabinet member for Social Regeneration)
- @steviecryan (Cabinet member for Jobs, Business and Innovation)
- @coyleneil (Local MP and Elephant & Castle resident)