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THE historic Elephant and Castle shopping centre will close its doors for the last time on Thursday, leaving some 40 traders with nowhere to go.
The south London complex, built 55 years ago, is due to be demolished to make way for a massive £4 billion development of almost 1,000 new homes — of which only 116 will be social housing — and a new shopping complex.
It follows a years-long campaign by local traders and activists to halt the development and protect the centre’s unique community of largely Latin-American traders.
Jerry Flyn, spokesman for local campaign group Up the Elephant, told the Morning Star: “The Elephant is not just a shopping centre, it’s a Latin-American social hub and all that now to a large degree has been lost — it’s been gentrified.
“All the homes and shops that will replace what was there before will be for people with a lot more money.”
Mr Flyn said that about 40 traders had still not been relocated before Thursday’s closure.
Mohammed Al Waris, who has sold fashion accessories for over 15 years in the market that surrounds the centre, is one of them.
“We haven’t been offered anything,” he said. “I believe we are entitled to a place in this area because they are making millions from this project. Why can’t they help these traders?”
In a last-ditch attempt to save their livelihoods, traders last week appealed to London Mayor Sadiq Khan to support their proposals for new market stalls to be included in the plans.
Local London Assembly member Florence Eshalomi, who is also MP for nearby Vauxhall, has submitted a formal question to the mayor asking him if he will support the proposals.
She told the Morning Star: “The Latin-American business community is part of the fabric of our local area and we all want to see that continue.
“Some traders remain at risk of losing their livelihoods in the middle of a pandemic. This is the very last thing we want to see.”
Property developer Delancey said the demolition process will begin from next month.
Diana Barranco, community director on behalf of the Elephant and Castle town centre team said that a relocation and hardship fund of £8,000 had been offered to businesses that were not relocated.
“Throughout the process, we have worked with every independent business who has been trading since before January 2019 (as set out in our S106 agreement) to find suitable relocation options,” she said.
“We want to reassure all parties that we take our responsibility extremely seriously and look forward to updating and working closely with the local community and other stakeholders as we move forward in delivering a new town centre.”
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