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Despite years of promises by developers Delancey and over year after initial allocation of relocation units for displaced traders at Elephant and Castle by the developers, Southwark Council and Tree Shepherd, to this day around 40 small independent businesses still have nowhere to go after serving the local community for decades.
In this page, Latin Elephant have compiled a list of long-standing local independent traders -active at least until January 2019 when planning permission to demolish the Shopping Centre was approved- who have not been offered a relocation space by either developers Delancey or Southwark Council as a result of the ‘redevelopment’ in Elephant and Castle.
These are their faces. These are their stories. Stories of sacrifice, hard work and much love and sense of belonging for Elephant and Castle.
Details of all displaced traders:
Note: The vast majority of these around 40 traders were not offered an alternative space at any point during the relocation process; some 31 traders were offered a Grant by Southwark (£3k plus a second payment to come – seen as very insufficient by all); few traders own more than one business and were only offered relocation for one of their current units; and very few are not being relocated and have received some compensation from Delancey.
The stories of traders are evidence of all of those small businesses that have played an essential role in our community for decades and, as things stand, will no longer be part of Elephant and Castle as a direct result of the redevelopment. Not long ago, in 2018, Southwark Council confirmed over 130 local businesses serving the community – the new plans will not even host 50 traders.
These stories are a result of our independent research carried out by Latin Elephant Team in collaboration with the traders, local groups and members of the Elephant and Castle community. It also complements and updates the thorough research we have done with our Interactive Map in 2019.
Accessing this information has been very difficult. We aim to continue updating the full picture as the relocation is still an ongoing process. If you have any comments or feedback, please write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org / twitter.com/latinelephant.
You can also support our independent non-for profit work here.
My name is Nassim Cheraitian, I’ve been trading at Elephant and Castle market for over 20 years. The closing down of the Shopping Centre, for us, wasn’t good news, because they haven’t helped us. For the last three, four, five years business has been down, we’ve been losing, losing…
My name is Mohammed Al Waris, I’ve been trading at the Elephant and Castle market for the past 15 plus years. Throughout these years I’ve been selling fashion accessories, and I’ve made friendships within the local community. When Delancey applied to demolish the shopping centre, that affected most of the traders’ lives, I’m one of them. We haven’t been offered anything. We were asked to pick three different locations and they haven’t offered me none of them. They haven’t told me why… Now we have one and a half months left to leave the market, and we can’t get any help from Tree Sheperd, or from Delancey. Every time we talk to the they say ‘sorry we haven’t got anything for you guys’, so we can’t do nothing. I believe we are entitled to a place in this area, cos they are making millions from this project, why can’t they help these traders?
My name is Shapoor Amini, I’ve worked at this market since 2001. Delancey people promised us so many things, they said we’ll give you a space, we’ll look after you guys, but they’ve done nothing for us. I even had someone who worked for me who got a space! But I’ve been here for twenty years and nothing. I applied so many times—I’ve made calls, been to the Council, been to Tree Shepherd’s office, done lots of paperwork […] been to countless meetings, and still nothing. I don’t know why not, they never talk to us face to face. It’s very difficult for me. I have a kids, a wife…
My name is Mohammed Jamal, I’m working in the market the last 8 years. I’m in a very bad situation, because I haven’t found a relocation […] I’ve got four children, and i’ve got no choice [but to work at the market] because I’m more than 55 now, and can’t find any other suitable job, and I’ve also got an illness I take medicine for […] customers ask ‘where are you going’ I said I still can’t find relocation […] because the council says there is no more relocation, it is all full. But I am still waiting for something to come up. One lady told me I’m not even on the waiting list […] she said your application is on file but not on the waiting list […] because there are so many people and the relocation spaces are limited […] I applied many times for a space […] and a small shop is alright for me […] I sent many emails, but no answer. The feeling of not having anything is very painful. If someone doesn’t speak English very well, or is softly spoken […] I am very soft, not talking a lot. That could be why no-one helped me.
My name is Muhammad Raza, I’m working here since 2006. The market is dead now, before it was alright, but slowly, slowly they are closing down shops, big stores—Tesco, Poundland, Boots is going—it’s really dead now so it’s really hard to survive. And because we don’t have a space we don’t know what to do. Tree Sheperd and Delancey aren’t answering our emails, actually I emailed two days ago and didn’t get a response. This morning Tree Sheperd calles me and said ‘if you find yourself any shop, we’ll help you’, I said which kind of help? Because I’m looking for a shop […] but if I look myself shops are £15,000, £20,000—I can’t afford that rent. And Tree Sheperd said they don’t have any affordable rents. If your looking for Castle Square or Elephant One, don’t even think about it […] they said ‘we’ll help you’, but which kind of help? I don’t know. This has affected my business, my life, my family, I don’t know what to do next.
Samuel Botchway is my name, I’m a Ghanaian. I came to this country some years back. From that time till today, for the past 9 years plus I’ve been working at Elephant and Castle Market as a computer repair man. All of the sudden it came out that they (Delancey) will demolish the Market and we were informed we will be secured shops or stalls so we can move but now we hear that nothing of that is happening. It is quite disturbing because this is how we get our daily income, to feed our families. Most of us have kids who attend school here, we need money to help them, buy food and whatever they need. So we don’t know what they are doing now. If you people can come to our aid, help us secure a shop so we can re-start trading again I think we will be very happy.
My name is Rahmat Saadat. I come from Afghanistan, I’ve been trading in Elephant and Castle Market for over 15 years. This was always a good place to trade and work, with different communities coming from different backgrounds, and I’m one of them who did not get a relocation space. The reason this place is important for me is because I have my customers with whom I have built a relationship with, I want to remain in this area so it would be good to get support from the Council or whichever organisation that can support us get a relocation space around here, that would be really good for me to continue my business in the future.
My name is Abdul Hakim Khan, I’m from Afghanistan and I sell luggage and shoulder bags, since 2008. I don’t have a place… Where am I going to put my stock?
My name is Al-Hassan Kamara, I’ve been in this market for over ten years. I did not like the way the Council and Delancey have dealt with the traders. Till now we still don’t have a space, we don’t know what the future holds for us. So we are pleading with whoever is listening, to find a solution for us. Please, because we have been left in the wilderness with no future, nothing for us.
I have been in Elephant & Castle since 1998 and started with selling carpets and bed linen. I then went on to study health and fitness, nutrition, exercise and mental health. I also studied how to deal with many different conditions which get referred to me from doctors. Later I became a massage therapist. I asked Tree Shepherd if I could apply as a massage therapist as I had a room which was voluntarily given to me by Emad to use. They got back to me saying yes and that they thought it would be a great idea. Till now I still don’t know how they rejected my application.
My name is Mogos Habtab, I started selling women’s and men’s clothes at the market in 2013. A long time ago I applied for a space, but they told me they were prioritising traders who’d been at the market a long time, and I’d only been there for 4 years. I don’t think we were all given an equal opportunity. I went to all the Tree Sheperd meetings, they asked so many questions, but I never got any feedback about why I was rejected. I don’t have anything planned at the moment, I can’t afford to find a new shop at market rent. Plus, due to the current crisis shoppers aren’t buying anything. I’m 41 and fit, I have a family of 5 and I want to work, it’s better to work.
My name is Mathew Onuba. I started working in the market as an assistant in 2015, and set up a business with my wife Eden Onuba in 2016. We sell children’s clothes, and have customers coming from Westminster, Walworth Road… not being given a relocation space has been painful; we pushed to do all the paperwork, spent time away from our kids to attend many meetings, and they made it seem as if we would be given a place. They promised that if we remained present at the market would be eligible. But lots of people that left were given a relocation space. Tree Sheperd is the middle man [between traders and the developer], but they weren’t talking to everybody openly. It doesn’t seem as if places were given by merit. Meanwhile we continued to struggle, paying rent and earning nothing when the market was so quiet, on this promise that we would likely get a place. I even had the option to take a shop elsewhere and declined. I didn’t know that all this time they were keeping us floating, getting what they wanted from us. Now I’m occupied with my kids as my wife is in hospital, and I can’t clear my goods. We don’t know what to do in September, it is a very difficult situation. I don’t want much, but to save the business we’ve built up together.
I don’t have a space and I want to remain in the area where all my customers are.
My name is Edmund, I’m working here [at the market] over 20 years. Things are very difficult, they gave a space to some people, who’d been here 5 years, 4 years, 2 years, people who have been here for a long time didn’t get nothing. That’s what we don’t understand, that’s why we are frustrated. We don’t know where we are going now. I applied for a space, and anything they asked, we give to them. They turned us down. But they didn’t say [why]. It has affected us […] someone who has been here for 20 years, and suddenly they say go. We don’t know where we are going. It is very hard for us. My customers always call me and ask where we are going. But we don’t know what to tell them […] that is a problem for us […] we’re looking to them (the council) […] we need help.