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Surrey Street traders accuse Croydon Council of neglecting them

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SURREY Street traders have accused the council of neglecting London's oldest street market and not wanting it to remain a part of Croydon's future.

Traders told the Advertiser of their frustration at the lack of help for the market, saying their efforts are being undermined by high parking charges and a lack of publicity and investment from the council.

The market in Croydon Old Town is nearly 800 years old, but some stall-holders say they no longer feel wanted.

Terry Lancley, 46, known to customers as Fred, has worked on Surrey Street since he was 11, and is now one of the market representatives.

"I don't think the council want the market here," he said. "They are not willing to help us, they are more of a hindrance but they don't want to be seen to take the market away from Croydon."

Mr Lancley said the traders have watched the rest of the town centre improved by the council while Surrey Street gets more run down.

"The market doesn't get any favours from the council," he said. "They've re-done North End and South End, they're improving everywhere else but not the market. We want them to improve the street and make it look better."

Ali Ali, 40, who has been on Surrey Street for 30 years, said the council is not interested in helping the market.

He said: "I don't think they want us here, they don't do us any favours. There are no signs, no advertising. We need a sign at the top of the street saying 'Surrey Street Market'."

But the council said Surrey Street was an important part of Croydon's future. The council's market team have joined the National Market Traders Federation and a spokesman said £1.6 million will be invested in Old Town to improve streets and shop fronts, although he could not confirm how much of this would go to Surrey Street.

There are also plans to realign stalls to make it easier for shoppers to get around, and events at Easter and on St George's Day are planned to draw in more customers.

In November, the council opened Surrey StrEatery, an indoor food hub selling street food made from ingredients from the market, but Mr Lancley said it had fallen foul of poor marketing.

"The StrEatery was a good idea but people don't know it's there," he said.

In the next few years Croydon town centre will benefit from £1 billion investment in the form of the Westfield/Hammerson development on the site of the Whitgift shopping centre.

Market traders were upbeat about the development, but said they did not know how they will survive the years of disruption before it is completed.

All traders spoken to by the Advertiser said they had not been consulted and did not know how Surrey Street would fit into the plans.

Mr Lancley said: "It's a good idea to improve the town centre, but what will happen to us while they are improving it? Will we still be here? I'm not looking forward to it. Once customers get scared off they disappear. Croydon needs the development, but at what cost? Any disruption and I will lose my living."

Croydon's Westfield/Hammerson Partnership said it has consulted the Croydon Old Town Business Association over the past two years and the area is key in its community plan. A spokesman said: "The partnership has been working closely with the council to ensure the scheme complements the wider town centre and brings maximum benefit to the community, including increasing footfall."

And stall-holder Leon Andrews, 24, said flats built with the development could bring students looking for a bargain to the market.

He said: "I think it will have a good impact on Croydon. University students trying to not spend much money could come to the market because it's cheap down here, cheaper than the supermarkets.

"Whether we will benefit or not we will see."

But Mr Lancley warned the attractive prices are being undermined by the cost of parking in the town centre.

"If the council could reduce the parking costs that would help us," he said.

Toni Letts, cabinet member for economic development, said she "never" wanted to see Surrey Street market close.

She said she wants to see more stall-holders selling different products.

"I wouldn't want to see a brand new district centre and Surrey Street down the road looking sad. That won't happen," she said.

"We want to create a market where you can go and get your shopping, get a bite to eat and rest your bones."

Surrey Street traders accuse Croydon Council of neglecting them


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