Jim Malory in Evening Standard ‘Leegate is Worst Shopping Centre in England’
Evening Standard run an article on Leegate ‘the worst shopping centre in England’
Cllr Jim Mallory says ‘We need small retailers to create a niche offering to help them compete against the superstore’
Susan Kinahan’ from In-Sight opticians says ‘ this used to be a nice little hub which attracted locals’
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Published: 10 December 2010
Grey shutters, boarded-up windows and “to let” signs — welcome to Britain’s worst shopping district.
The crumbling precinct in Lee Green, Lewisham, has been called a “ghost town” by struggling businesses and the few shoppers who still go there.
New figures reveal that 34 per cent of the shops in Lee Green are empty — almost three times the Greater London average of 12 per cent, and a higher proportion than anywhere else in the country.
Its dwindling fortunes are apparent everywhere. The entire second floor of retail units in one corner of the Leegate Centre are empty, as are many on ground level. Although Christmas is on its way, you would barely know, with a single star stuck to one of the brick facades as the only decoration.
Fred Belton, 62, from West Wickham, owns butcher FC Meats. He said: “Really, if you look around the place, it looks like a ghost town.”
Business owners say that shops in Lee Green suffer from competition from a supermarket and red routes in the main shopping areas make it difficult for customers to visit the centre which opened in March 1963.
Nearby high streets in Lewisham and Blackheath have also drawn trade away. A campaign group is calling on Lewisham council and the owners of Leegate shopping centre to redevelop the area.
Councillor Jim Mallory, who chairs the Lee Green Lives group, said: “We think that the site needs some redevelopment plus money put into the sites that would remain. The money would be for the smaller retailers — niche retailers — so that they’re not so much competing with the supermarkets.”
Tim Seddon, regional director for the owner St Modwen, said: “We are working on proposals for a redevelopment of the Leegate Centre, which is now almost 50 years old, and aim to commence a public consultation with local stakeholders early in the new year. In the meantime, we continue to offer
flexible lease terms and affordable rents in order to attract new tenants to the centre.”
A spokesman for Lewisham council said: “The council is having discussions with the owners, St Modwen, on their potential development proposals for the centre, with a view to considering options for its regeneration.”