Surrey Street shops losing £800 a day during council works

Contractors working in Surrey Street this week. Some shops report their trade is down by 65%

The word on the street – Surrey Street – is that shopkeepers are suffering huge losses of trade while the council conducts its bout of largely cosmetic road works in Croydon’s ancient market. WALTER CRONXITE reports

“Good progress is being made on the improvement works to Surrey Street and the project remains on schedule to finish in early June,” was the party line pumped out by Croydon Council, four weeks into its £1.1million project.

But shopkeepers who continue to trade while the stalls have been displaced to North End and Queen’s Gardens report a crippling loss of trade in the absence of Surrey Street’s traditional traders.

One cafe, which relied on stallholders buying teas, coffees and bacon rolls through the long trading hours, reckons its business is down by 65 per cent since the road works started on March 27.

And the manager of another shop told Inside Croydon that their takings were down by £800 last Saturday compared with their usual turnover on the busiest trading day of the week.

“It just goes to show how much we rely on the stalls being here to help bring in the business,” a shopkeeper said yesterday.

“Business has been really quiet since the stalls moved out. And they reckon we’ve got another five weeks of this at least before we can try to get back to normal.”

Some shops admit that they are considering reducing the hours of work of some of their casual workers while the downturn in trade continues. “We just can’t afford to have someone standing in the shop if there’s so few customers coming in,” one shop manager said.

Work on the scheme has been pushed forward at the Town Hall by council leader Tony Newman and one of his close clique of Labour councillors, Mark Watson, who has described the traditional street market as being “tatty”.

‘Tatty’: Mark Watson, the councillor behind the Surrey Street closure

The works conducted so far appear to comprise mainly of creating a level area where stalls will be positioned, using small setts which are expensive and time-consuming to lay and tend to be difficult to repair or replace.

The council says that the works conducted so far “include new levelled pavements, improved drainage and new cabling to support an upgraded street lighting scheme”. There was no mention from the council’s propaganda bunker in Fisher’s Folly of Watson’s favoured “street art”, though the neon signage which Watson had commissioned for £10,000 still hangs from the bridge above the street.

According to the council, “Shops and cafes along Surrey Street remain open to the public and are trading as normal.”

Not according to one out-of-pocket shop-owner: “If this is ‘normal’, I might as well pack up and move out now.” The shopkeeper expressed some concern at the apparently slow pace of progress of the work so far, which is being conducted by contractors Kier, whose work on other road projects around Croydon has tended to be completed later than scheduled.

The shopkeeper also confirmed that their erstwhile neighbours, the stallholders, have been enjoying improved trading since the move to the easier-to-access North End. “Some of them are already saying that they don’t want to come back,” the shopkeeper said. “But the council won’t let them stay on there once the works have finished.”

According to Watson, the council’s small business champion, “I am really pleased with the progress being made on Surrey Street and would like to thank everyone for their patience while these crucial works are carried out.

“The contractors are continuing to work hard to deliver the scheme, so the new upgraded and lively market that will rival some of the best in London, can reopen as quickly as possible.”

Watson failed to elaborate on when that reopening date might be.

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2 Responses to Surrey Street shops losing £800 a day during council works

  1. I absolutely hate this scheme by Croydon Council. Yes the paths and roads will look very pretty (if that’s your thing), but how in the name of god will this improve Surrey Street. During the day the newly paved roads will be covered by the market stalls. Ive never heard anyone say “I will not go to Surrey Street as I cant stand the paths!
    This is a vanity project that will yield nothing.What a waste of money.

  2. Lewis White says:

    I haven’t yet seen the new paving, and feel sorry for the shops in Surrey Street who are suffering while the stalls are at other sites, but, without this investment in decent paving, and a better street-scape, the chances are that the small remaining market would dwindle to nothing within a year, so these shops would have no income generated by the market at all –there would be no market ! Not a great thought, after 600 plus years, for the stalls nor the shops, nor the Street nor Croydon. I really hope that the better paving and other environmental works will make the street look loved and alive. The old hot-rolled asphalt paving looked grim.

    Surrey Street has sadly been on a downward trajectory for years, and part of its woes stem in my opinion from the dereliction of the adjacent St George’s Walk area, and the fact that the adjacent section of the High Street in the area from Katherine Street to the Flyover is a boring, dirty bit of pavement. The whole area had got a distinctly run-down feel.

    Investment in an improved street environment is not a panacea, but is a foundation for prosperity.
    The modern shopper might not consciously come to an area because it has been renewed, but people are savvy, and sense positives, and the “feel good factor”, which decent paving, street furniture and (if appropriate) trees, can deliver.

    I recently drove along Lower Addiscombe Road, and stopped at a shop on one of the parades on the section of the road that was re-paved with good quality paving, and had some trees planted a few years back. The street looks good, bright and cheerful, and every shop seemed to be occupied. It all felt positive. OK, I am not a local Addiscombe resident, but I have known that area for decades, and feel that the street today looks better than it did before the environmental works.Yet I know that when the works were under way those few years ago, the shops suffered reduced takings.

    More recently, the South End restaurant quarter was repaved, and given shop front improvements, which look good to me, and in West Croydon, lots of trees and new paving on London Road have transformed what was a crummy greasy old street. It’s given the whole place a “lift” in vibe and appearance, so I hope that, for the Surrey Street shops, the real pain now from reduced takings will be replaced by greater footfall this Summer, once people see and start to come back to Surrey Street. It takes a few months for people to find out and come to sample things for themselves.

    We all have choice as to where we shop and take leisure — leisure shopping, a cappuccino or two in a nice place– a bit of sunshine and some people watching as the World goes by– just the ticket ! Must pop down Surrey Street and view what is happening!

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