Businesses left covered in scaffolding for 4 years losing customers

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Businesses in a 1960s shopping parade in Croydon want customers to know they are still there, despite being covered in scaffolding for more than four years.

Half of St George’s Walk was demolished in 2018 to make way for a new public square and hundreds of flats as part of a planned £500m redevelopment.

But since then nothing has happened with scaffolding still covering the Nestle Tower, which was supposed to be transformed into three tower blocks.

The Nestle Tower is still covered in scaffolding (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

The building has been empty since the company left the borough in 2012.

Below the iconic tower is the other half of St George’s Walk where businesses are still open, but complain of low footfall and anti-social behaviour.

R&F started work on redeveloping the Nestle Tower into more than 200 flats in 2019 but work paused sometime in 2020. The 250ft tower has been covered in scaffolding ever since.

Moshin Akbary has run MailSmart for the past five years and says many don’t realise businesses are still operating in the walk.

His business offers shipping and money transfer so people come in for a purpose rather than dropping in on a whim.

He said: “With the barriers up people can’t see it is open, other businesses here have very poor footfall. My customers even find it hard to find sometimes, everyone finds it difficult to come here.

“There is antisocial behaviour and graffiti damage to shop fronts. We don’t mind children coming here to play but we don’t like people who come here to smoke and do graffiti and vandalism.

“There is still no development and I think the council should do more to help us here. There was a plan they submitted a few years ago but nothing has happened.”

He added that some 30 minute parking outside would help the businesses.

My PT opened in the walk in 2012 and Pete Joel, one of the gym’s directors, says the low rents have allowed the business to grow.

The personal trainer said: “When we first moved in, Nestle was still operating so the footfall was amazing. The location is great for our business as we don’t rely on footfall, otherwise we wouldn’t be existing.”

Joel thinks with a bit more care, St George’s Walk could be home to more businesses. He said with new flats opening up nearby the gym is seeing an influx of “trendy”people moving down to Croydon from places like Clapham. He added: “It just needs people and needs a bit of life.”

Mayor of Croydon, Jason Perry, said: “I have had R&F in here and I’ve been there, they are saying that they plan on redeveloping that site. It is important we get it moving, it is a key own centre site.”

The mayor said the only option for the council to take control of the site would be to issue a compulsory purchase order.

He added: “At the moment I am working with the existing owners to get them to redevelop their sites. It is a huge mixed use site that would bring jobs and housing to the town centre.”

R&F was contacted for comment.

Pictured top: Moshin Akbary from MailSmart thinks more can be done to let people know businesses are still trading in St George’s Walk (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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Croydon – South London News