Fewer than 30 traders were allowed to transfer their stalls from Surrey Street to the temporary market on North End while £1.1million road resurfacing works goes on, Inside Croydon has discovered.
All other, casual stall-holders were told that they could not be accommodated during the road works on Surrey Street, which began in March and are expected to last until early June.
This has left some of the casuals with nowhere to trade in Croydon for more than two months, with some either giving up their business or opting to take their businesses away from Surrey Street, unlikely to return.
Artur Przybysz, who ran a jewellery and crafts stall on Surrey Street for three years until he was barred from transferring to North End, has accused the council of “destroying my business”.
This discrimination between businesses by the council was never made apparent in of the consultation meetings run by senior councillor Mark Watson before the bulldozers moved in to Surrey Street at the end of March.
Croydon Council rents out stall spaces – pitches – either on a permanent or temporary, casual, basis. Some licences have been held by family businesses going back generations, but many have not been renewing their licences in recent years, as trade on Surrey Street has become increasingly difficult. There were 75 stalls – permanent and casual – operating on Surrey Street by 2013, down from more than 100 a decade earlier.
How many stalls return when the street market re-opens this summer remains to be seen, though some fear that the council has been hand-picking those stalls it wishes to retain, as part of a gentrification policy towards the 770-year-old marketplace, the oldest surviving street market in London.
Fewer stalls can make the market seem less attractive to shoppers, who like the variety and choice that old-fashioned street markets have always offered, as well as the competitive pricing that it encourages.
Watson – who apparently is the council’s “champion of small business” – has described Surrey Street as “tatty”, and said that he wants neon street art and pop-up bars and “eateries”, some of which may threaten the business of established pubs and cafes on Surrey Street.
Street food vendors who previously operated on Surrey Street were moved into Queen’s Gardens for the duration of the works.
Those fruit and veg stall-holders fortunate enough to be allowed by the council to continue to work on North End’s pedestrianised area while Surrey Street is closed are enjoying the experience.
“Yeah, it’s good up here,” one market trader told us, asking not to be identified.
“There’s more customers, and business is better. Suppose we’d like to stay, but we already know that the council won’t allow us to do that.”
Asked whether they will go back to Surrey Street once it re-opens, the trader said, “I don’t really know yet.”
Those licensed stall-holders who were allowed to move to North End pay nearly £4,000 per year for a 9ft x 9ft pitch in the open on Surrey Street, with barely any amenities provided by the council. “You must provide your own stall(s), tables, electricity and public liability cover for £5,000,000. The style and type of stall should be discussed with the market inspector,” the council’s licence information states.
Judging by the numbers on North End, there are now only 24 permanent Surrey Street licence-holders.
Casual pitches are rented out at £240 for the first month and thereafter cost £4,680 for any trader renting a pitch six days a week for a whole year.
But for the past six weeks, casuals like Przybysz have been denied the opportunity to sell their wares in central Croydon. “Due to the upgrade of Surrey Street Market, all stalls moved to North End,” he said.
“It is a very nice place for business, but Croydon Council did not give place for my crafted jewellery stall. I have been left without any chance for trading in Croydon.
“After three years treading in Surrey Street, during the beginning new season for jewellery selling, they just said ‘No’.
“It seems like Croydon is destroying my business instead of help.”
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