Eltham High Street “struggling to cope” during improvement works

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Eltham High Street is “struggling to cope” during the ongoing 18-month improvement works, according to businesses experiencing significant declines in takings as a result of reduced parking, unnavigable pavements and traffic problems.

The news comes as Conservative councillors are set to formally propose that Greenwich Council makes a series of urgent interventions to help businesses survive the disruption caused by the current 18-month regeneration programme.

Hundreds of business owners and shoppers have also signed a petition calling on the Council to ‘Help our High Street’ by taking urgent action to support businesses.

Councillor Spencer Drury, whose Eltham North ward includes the northern side of the High Street, held a meeting with business owners at which he was told of the “devastating” effect that the works are having on smaller, independent traders. Examples include;

  • The White Hart public house experiencing a decline of £2,500 in year on year takings for the week starting 13th June.
  • Cafe SE9 seeing the minimum take for a day drop by 40%, leading to the proprietor falling behind on her rent.
  • In common with other shops in the Eltham Arcade takings at Coffee Town have at least halved. As a result, Coffee Town have laid off one member of staff and Business Rates were not paid for June.
  • The footfall to the Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice Shop has dropped by 1,000 compared to the same quarter last year. 

Lesley Alkaner-Russell, the owner of CafeSE9 in the Eltham Arcade, said: “For me a 40% reduction in takings has resulted in me for the first time in six years of trading falling behind in my rent payments to the landlord and struggling to pay my business rates. Even shops which have been here years have never seen a fall in business like this and I'm desperate for the Council to help us as otherwise they'll be no shops left in Eltham High Street by the time the work finishes."

At Wednesday’s Full Council meeting at Woolwich Town Hall (29th June), Conservative councillors will formally propose a series of “urgent interventions” for Labour-run Greenwich Council to take to stop businesses going out of business.

Councillor Spencer Drury (Con, Eltham North) said: “It is heart-breaking to hear that these works – which are intended to bring more shoppers to the high street – are having such a devastating effect in the shorter term. I really fear for what will happen if Greenwich Council does not do something to help, and do something to help very quickly indeed.

“Thanks to investment from the previous Mayor of London, Eltham High Street is finally getting the attention it needs after decades of neglect. However, if there are no businesses left to see it, the transformation will have been pointless. I really hope that Labour councillors accept the Conservative Group’s constructive proposals to help our High Street survive the disruption.”

The measures will be proposed by Councillor Drury and seconded by Eltham South Councillor Matt Clare, who represents the south side of the High Street. They are;

  • A time-limited business rate exemption for all Eltham High Street shops to be in place at least until the pavements are navigable again.
  • Introduction of free parking in Eltham while the regeneration works are going on, to be considered in the Sainsbury’s and/or Orangery Road car park.
  • An advertising campaign around the High Street to remind people that the shops remain open during the works. 

Local Conservatives last year branded the proposal by Labour councillor to cut the number of parking spaces on the High Street from 59 to 21 a “huge mistake”. After successful lobbying the plans were amended, but Conservative councillors are concerned that Greenwich Council is not taking an active enough an interest in how the changes are impacting on trade.