Stalls in Woolwich Market are being back to their historic home in Beresford Square later this month – but one trader says he’s facing a drop in trade because of the shift.
Greenwich Council is to move the stalls from Greens End towards the old Royal Arsenal gate on 24 September, after originally relocating them there in 2012.
It says the move, which will come into effect from 24 September, will help traders benefit from next year’s arrival of Crossrail. The council has also told traders that it would help cut anti-social behaviour in the area.
But flower seller Lee Simmonds, who has traded in the market for 38 years, is unhappy about how the council went about the move.
He fears a steep drop in trade as the stalls are moved away from the current flow of customers between General Gordon Square and the main shopping thoroughfare of Powis Street.
“This is the best site going. I’ve worked every spot on this market – it’s the best all of us have ever had,” he told 853.
“We serve people on a low income, we buy big and sell cheap – and we need the flow of people. It’s a prime site.”
He said the council had originally told him the move was to get stalls out of the way of the flow of people between the DLR exit on Greens End and the Crossrail station in the Royal Arsenal compound. “Work that one out – they’re over there, we’re not affecting them.”
But later, he says he found out it was because of anti-social behaviour behind the stalls.
“But now I’ve found out it’s because they can’t see what’s going on behind my stall on the CCTV. Well, move the CCTV then.
“I’ve been on this spot for six years, on this market for 38 years – if it’s anti-social behaviour, surely you deal with that, not the people paying their taxes and the rent?”
Simmonds said he was unhappy about the way the council conducted the move after complaints of anti-social behaviour in the area, saying he was invited to a consultation but found the decision to move the stalls had already been made.
“A woman came down and asked me to join a committee. She asked us what was going on [in the market area] and I told her a a few things that were going on – stupid me. Then she came down to me and said we’re thinking of moving your stall – I said I don’t want to sit on a committee like that, I’m not interested.
“I made a fuss about it, and six months later, I get a letter – do you want to come for a consultation on relocation of the market. They gave us five maps, and said this is where you’re going – which one do you want?
“I said, I thought this was a consultation. They said they had decided – I asked who, but they said they couldn’t give me their names. I asked, ‘where’s the minutes?’ ‘Oh, I can’t give you that.’ I flipped. I threw it on the floor and walked out.
“We had no choice in the matter.”
An email from council leader Danny Thorpe to Simmonds said: “Each of you was informed that the decision to move the stalls came from a working party of Council officers and Councillors which considered the future of markets in Woolwich. This group had decided that the relocation of the stalls would benefit the main market on Beresford Square and would alleviate the anti-social behaviour taking place behind the stalls in Greens End.
“It was also the view of the working group that the relocation will open up the area between Beresford Square, Powis Street, General Gordon Square and the station which is important because we expect this area to get much busier once the Elizabeth Line opens.”
The market has a charter dating back to 1618, although it is believed to be much older. It moved to Beresford Square in 1887.
A Greenwich Council spokesperson told 853 the traders were being moved so they could capitalise on footfall to the Crossrail station, now expected to open late 2019: “We are currently working on a range of initiatives to rejuvenate the historic Beresford Square Market areas to maximise the benefit of its close proximity to the Elizabeth Line station.
“The station will massively increase the footfall to the market area and we want to ensure the committed traders, who bring so much valued vibrancy to Woolwich Town Centre, benefit from this opportunity.
“Obviously the rise in numbers of visitors to the town centre due to the new fast rail link, will add to the current pedestrian congestion around Greens End, which has an entrance to the Docklands Light Railway.
“The Elizabeth Line brings a once in a lifetime chance for Beresford Market to be rejuvenated which is why the council is currently advertising for traders for a Sunday market which be piloted in the run up to Christmas.”
The market move comes after a difficult summer in Woolwich town centre, with groups of men gathering in Greens End in the evenings during the heatwave and the nearby Coffee Lounge cafe, based in Equitable House, hiring bouncers to protect staff and customers.
The cafe’s manager was attacked a week later.
Simmonds said he was upset by social media comments linking the position of the market stalls to anti-social behaviour.
“I had to ask, is it [the move] because of that? I really don’t understand it,” he said.
“The only reasons we have all the bins here is to protect us from what goes on – knives, guns, the wardens aren’t allowed to approach them, it’s ridiculous.”
The email from Thorpe to Simmonds said the concerns expressed on social media were not the reason why the stalls were being moved.
The Greenwich Council spokesperson said staff were talking to stallholders about bin locations, and added: “There had been some instances of anti-social behaviour in General Gordon Square as record numbers of visitors enjoyed the sunshine there during the heatwave.
“Our community safety officers and street wardens are currently working in partnership with the Met Police to address issues and they have been meeting with businesses to discuss their concerns.”
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