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Traders finally return to Surrey Street home, but not all are happy

Traders finally return to Surrey Street home, but not all are happy
Jun 06, 2017 Shaking Hands 0 comments
This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 05/06/2017.

Traders finally return to Surrey Street home, but not all are happy

Market traders who have served the public on Surrey Street for years returned to their historic home in the town centre today (Monday, June 5), but not all of them are happy to be back.

The market, which has operated on Surrey Street for more than 700 years, was temporarily moved to North End for 10 weeks to allow £1.1 million worth of resurfacing work to be carried out.

The aim was to improve the layout of the market and make it more accessible for pedestrians.

Advertiser reporter Olivia Tobin made her way down to Surrey Street this morning to see how the first day of trading was going.

When she arrived at the market at 10am, it was not as busy as expected and many of the stallholders were still getting used to the different set up.

Many traders said they were not pleased to be back in their traditional home, with some suggesting their spot on North End was more profitable, social and generally better for all parties concerned.

Russel Smith, who has been at the market “all his life”, has had the position of his flower stall changed – and is no longer located at the Scarbrook Road end of the street.

Mr Smith, who is the fifth generation of his family to have a stall on the historic street, said: “We were previously up there [he gestures south to the bottom of the street] and we have now been packed right the way down here, plus they have measured [the pitch] out wrong. 

“We have been told to come up to the path, but we have never been on the path. I’m shocked how close we are [to the pavement and nearby shops]. My head is spinning.”

The new location for Mr Smith’s stall is problematic for customers to get to when traffic is also trying to come down the street, he said.

The trader, who has had his stall for 32 years, said he preferred being on North End.

He added: “We’ve just been pushed and pushed. North End was much better, but we did have less room there. There was just more people and more of a flow.”

Kenneth Howlett, who has had his fruit and vegetable stall for 26 years, was also unhappy with the move back to Surrey Street and was unimpressed with the initial response to the changes.

He said: “This is the opening day, it should be bouncing but it is embarrassing.

“At one stage we had 127 stalls in this market. Now we have, at best, about 40.”

Mr Howlett said that although the market had traditionally been held on Surrey Street, with time people’s shopping habits change, and the traders are more likely to make a profit where there is a heavier footfall, on North End.

“At one stage we were the envy of every market from the top to the bottom of this country,” he added.

“People don’t want to come down here with all their shopping any more, history has moved on.

“I have always been saying we’ll take the market to the people, and for those 12 weeks [when the market moved] I was proved right.

“We were working together and it was wonderful. I was told by police the crime rate was down by at least 60 per cent [as a result of the stall-holders being in the busy area]. It benefited everybody.

“If the council is serious about keeping this market going we should be moved.

“The average age of most of the traders is about 50, if this council was considering having a market and bringing more young people into it they should do more about it. Having it here, it would just die.”

While some traders felt the market would be better placed in North End, others explained that the character and history of Surrey Street remains important.

Abdul Karim Tahil, who has had a clothing and accessory stand for five years, said: “Surrey Street is our market.

“There’s a loyalty to my customers here. We see our customers here and there is a culture.

“We must try to pick up this market again, it should be like a high street. We should have music playing, it would attract more people.”

While Mr Tahil agreed footfall had been better along North End, he isn’t convinced about a long-term move there.

“We just try our best to make a living,” he added. “There were more people and more customers at North End. But this is our market. It’s a very difficult question to answer [whether the market should move away from Surrey Street].”

Carol Herbert and her husband, John, run a fruit and vegetable stall – with John having worked on it for 57 years, having started as a 10-year-old helping his dad out.

Mrs Herbert said: “This is the place for us.”

She added that her family found the move tough as they have a nearby yard to Surrey Street where they keep their stock. In North End, she and her 67-year-old husband had to move their produce all the way there.

“My husband is glad to be back because we were right up next to Marks & Spencer and it was too much hard work because we had to lug everything up there every day,” she said.

“It [North End] was better, it was just the fact that it was hard work for my husband every day, he’s 67 years old.”

Mrs Herbert added that despite having being moved for such a long time, she cannot see much difference in the street.

“We’re disappointed with the work that has been done,” she said.

“They’ve said we could have a traditional market and stall, but we haven’t because we’ve been told we have to have a gazebo. We should be able to have a traditional market [stall] if we want to. It’s taken away the character of the market.

“I just don’t like the idea of someone sitting in an office telling me how to do my job.”

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