Catford traders fear town centre redevelopment plans

Catford traders are worried about their future in the town if a huge £500 million redevelopment goes ahead.

The council wants to knock down and rebuild the Catford Centre shopping mall and replace it with 20-storey tower blocks and new shops.

But traders who have been there for decades fear they will lose their livelihoods if plans go ahead and their shops are bulldozed.

Lewisham Council bosses approved the Catford Town Centre Framework plans in July.

This Is Local London: Emurla Emurla, Yassar Latif, Samad Raheem (Grainne Cuffe)Emurla Emurla, Yassar Latif, Samad Raheem (Grainne Cuffe)

It includes a sweeping redevelopment to turn Catford into the “greenest town centre in London” and build 2,700 homes.

The Catford Centre, bought by the council more than a decade ago – and the Milford Towers estate – are expected to be redeveloped into housing and shops.

Both sites could potentially have tower blocks of up to 20 storeys built, the framework says.

The council wants to make the town centre largely car-free with “generous areas of public space created as the South Circular is rerouted”.

Samad Raheem, who has run a stall in Catford shopping centre for nearly 20 years, is worried about his future.

The 32-year-old said: “I really don’t want it to be knocked down. I like it the way it is, the old design.

“There are too many big buildings coming in – if there’s no problem why change it? I would lose my business. At the moment it’s very good and I’m happy – if I lose it what will I do?”

Several people said they believed the plans would never become a reality.

Jerry Sweeney owns Mister Cobbler in the shopping centre. The 56-year-old said: “I’ve been here for 30 years so I don’t take a lot of heed really. They just keep talking about it.

“It might be good for the area but for me it wouldn’t be great because while they’re doing it – I’ll be out of business.”

Yassar Latif, 40, owns the lease to Tony’s Grocers in Catford Broadway.

He said the pedestrianisation of the street in 2014 halved his business, while the council made promises it didn’t keep.

He said: “They want to make it look like they’re doing a good job but the effect on businesses around here has been the exact opposite.

“Overall, since they’ve done it we’ve lost nearly half of our business. We tried to talk to them about it but it’s like talking to a brick wall.”

He said delivery drivers refuse to come to the area and fewer people come to shop.

Yassar said: “They promised to put a market on here every week after they did it, but they [haven’t].”

The 40-year-old added that the redevelopment “won’t be possible” because private business owners will not sell up.

This Is Local London: Tony's Grocers (Grainne Cuffe)Tony’s Grocers (Grainne Cuffe)

He said: “Businesses won’t support it. If you have no other source of income – who’s going to let go of their bread and butter?

“The council owns the shopping centre but there are a lot of private owners in between.”

Emurla Emurla, who manages Istanbul Barbershop, said the redevelopment of Catford would be a good thing for business.

The 33-year-old said: “It would be nice to have people coming here to visit and it would be good for business.

“It would be very good to have more houses.”

In the next year, planned developments include a £7 million revamp of the Broadway Theatre, converting the Town Hall into a public services work space, and restoring the former Catford Constitutional Club so it can open as a pub.

Works on the area around Catford and Catford Bridge stations could start as early as next year.

According to the council the plan will provide “more opportunities for local shops and businesses”.

Cllr Kim Powell, Lewisham’s cabinet member for business and community wealth building, said: “Local businesses are at the heart of the council’s vision for Catford town centre.

“Our plans will create new flexible workspace for local businesses and encourage more people to visit the town centre, helping increase footfall and support the local economy.”

A council spokesman added that there is a monthly market on the Broadway and that the pedestrianisation of the area was a success.

He said: “The Catford Food Market, which runs monthly, has helped bring thousands of regular visitors and newcomers to the town centre over the last three years.

“The council has been working closely with local businesses to address concerns around anti-social behaviour on Catford Broadway.

“Earlier this week, a meeting was held with the local police and business owners to discuss this issue and possible solutions.”

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