Surrey Street’s long-suffering and loyal traders are to be banned by Croydon Council from the opportunity of selling their wares when regular Sunday trading is introduced to the market for the first time in its 750-year history in September.
The council announced in March that it is to spend £500,000 of public money to try to boost the ailing street market, where stall occupancy is down below 75 per cent.
And today the council revealed its Baldrick-like cunning plan: Sunday opening, but excluding most of the existing stall-holders, many of whom have worked their pitches for decades, some of whom have run their family stalls for generations.
“Is this some kind of a sick joke?” one stall-holder told Inside Croydon today when we broke the news to them.
“We’re here, day-in, day-out through all weathers, drawing in the customers, and the council ignores us. They focus on the big boys, like Westfield and Boxpark. And then when they decide to spend some money on promoting the market, we’re not allowed to benefit. It might be funny if it wasn’t so cruel.”
The council released the news this afternoon.
“Traders and entertainers are invited to apply for pitches and slots in a new regular Sunday market which will start this September in Surrey Street,” the council stated. The price of a one-day pitch licence: £15.
“The council is extending market trading to seven days a week as part of its plans to improve the area and increase the number of customers using the street.
“Hundreds of thousands of pounds are set to be invested by the local authority before Christmas on making the street safer and more attractive and giving it a more flexible layout.”
And, almost as an after-thought, it added: “To avoid competing with the regular Monday-to-Saturday market no fruit or vegetable traders will be approved.”
Another stall-holder approached by Inside Croydon expressed their frustration, and anger. “Some of us have wanted the chance to trade on a Sunday for years. But the council was having none of it. ‘Not the tradition,’ we were told. ‘Think of the residents,’ they said.
“It’s commonsense that Sundays could be one of the best days for business of the week – working people have more time to shop then. It would certainly be better for us than Mondays or Tuesdays. And our council has now decided that we’re to be denied the chance to trade on Sundays because they want to stage some kind of festival for the Yuppies and so-called ‘artisans’ flogging their over-priced tat.
“They’re squeezing us out of our business. There’s been a lot of stall-holders who have been leaving or considering leaving Surrey Street the last couple of years. This could prove to be the final straw for some.”
Four years ago, Surrey Street was supposed to have received £100,000 from the Portas Pilot, a scheme backed by the TV personality, Mary Portas, intended to revive traditional markets. The consensus of the market traders was that they never saw any benefit or change as a result of that scheme. There are fewer stalls trading on Surrey Street today than there was in 2011, before the Portas “investment” took place.
The council has recently provided a £3 million loan to lure Boxpark to set up business next to East Croydon Station, which traders in Surrey Street and the town centre’s existing bars and restaurants see as being in direct commercial opposition to their own businesses.
With planned Sunday opening of Surrey Street in September, the new venture may have a couple of weeks to establish before Boozepark’s “grand” opening, which is now being forecast for the end of that month – at least 12 weeks behind schedule.
Mark Watson, the senior Labour councillor behind the Surrey Street scheme, has admitted that the Sunday opening idea is to allow newcomers to trade on the “reputation” for good value and excellence established by the market’s long-term stall-holders.
“Central Croydon is incredibly busy every Sunday and we want small, independent traders to be able to capitalise on this by being able to make use of Surrey Street’s reputation as a long-standing and successful market,” Watson said.
“By bringing in a new mix of products we will help the market cater for a far wider range of tastes.”
Or hasten the demise of the existing businesses.
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