The view of Marlowe Road resident Michelle Edwards, as she monitors the ongoing redevelopment of her estate
In all of the council steering group meetings I have attended since 2014, it has been evident the authority is principally concerned with two businesses – Wood Street Post Office and Co-operative Food supermarket.
At an early stage of the council’s planning, when a resident asked at a meeting whether those businesses would remain as part of the regeneration, a council representative said both would be retained and “there will be more commercial space provided in the development”.
In a further meeting, nearly two years ago, the council confirmed it had reached an agreement for the new location of the Co-op on the site of the current plaza in Wood Street, after the first phase of construction was completed. It was also said that the post office would remain where it is until a new unit had been built.
No such dispensation was given to the smaller businesses around here. Current traders tell me they are being offered no help relocating and have not been kept informed, though the council refutes these claims. As it stands, four shops are closed. Seemingly, their trade wasn’t seen as being of any particular value.
A year ago the Cat Rescue charity shop and Limpopo Butchery were served notices to leave within six months and three months respectively. Mat Cosmetics was given just one month. More recently, in December, New Hing Loon surrendered its lease “through negotiation”. Staff at the eatery told me the owner decided to retire rather than start again elsewhere. With the exception of the Chinese takeaway, I believe these notices were served prematurely. Given that works to the estate commenced in October, these businesses could have continued until then.
Traders are constantly fielding such threats to their livelihood. Last year, two letters headed ‘Stickers on Shop Frontages’ were circulated. The first said they could be liable to a fine if illegal fly-posting attached to their shop front was not removed within a week. The second wrote with a proposal to ‘provide a one-off service to remove those stickers free of charge’. If they failed to take advantage of the offer and the stickers remained, the traders would find themselves subject to ‘a fixed penalty notice or court fine’.
On another occasion, a letter was sent explaining that the car parks surrounding Northwood Tower, behind the post office and next to the basketball court, would all be closing in early January, leaving proprietors and their customers without spaces. Despite repeated pleas with the council, their concerns about losing trade fell on deaf ears.
Businesses around here believe the council wants to drive them out slowly by imposing unmanageable ‘red tape’ to exhaust them into turning over their units, which differs somewhat from their PR spin that everybody connected with the regeneration is happy with how it is progressing. They are not.