The chief executive of the social enterprise appointed to help traders affected by plans to demolish Elephant and Castle shopping centre says he fears a ‘no’ vote will mean more uncertainty and no financial support for struggling businesses.
Colin Crooks, CEO of Tree Shepherd, which has been appointed by the Council to help the traders affected, said yesterday: ‘The one thing businesses crave is certainty, and [today’s] vote is a significant moment for the traders at Elephant and Castle.
“For the past year we have been working with all 27 of the independent traders in the centre and many of those in the market outside providing advice to keep their businesses alive if they have to leave, and others to re-locate.
“We have seen first-hand how this looming decision has impacted businesses’ cash flow and also caused so much stress and confusion.
“If planning goes ahead [today], it’s essential that Section 106 and the final paperwork is completed quickly so the traders can finally put their plans into action and start to look forward.
“If the planning decision is not passed, we are entering yet another period of uncertainty, which throws many options into the air.
“We fear the traders may still be required by Delancey to leave next spring regardless, this time without any business support or relocation funding.
“If they are allowed to stay however, they are facing a future in a centre which has fallen into disrepair and requires substantial refurbishment to turn it into a shopping destination.
“Whichever way it swings, we would urge the owners to continue to support these long-standing traders, through support with re-location and advice, or investment to make the centre sparkle again.
“Tree Shepherd will continue to support the traders for as long as we can.’
Stafford Lancaster, investment director of Delancey, the developer behind the scheme, told the News: “We of course want utmost certainty for all shopping centre traders.
“Our priority is to make sure that traders want to stay, and can remain in the area to create a unique and diverse retail offer for Elephant and Castle in the short and long-term.
He went on to say that since taking over the shopping centre in December 2013, Delancey had implemented £1 million of repair works, and that the terms of the section 106 are already ‘significantly progressed, ahead of what is usually required prior to a planning committee’, saying this has been achieved in order to provide ‘greater clarity for the traders on the relocation process’.