Lee Green in Lewisham is home to Britain’s most unsuccessful shopping district, according to new research released today.
The research in the nation’s changing high streets, commissioned by the BBC, found that in Lee Green, 32.34% of shops are vacant; higher than anywhere else in the country. This is compared to an average of 11.2% of shops vacant across the Greater London area.
Fawwaz Javaad, who works in the family run Bambinos children’s wear shop said: “Our shop has only been open for two months, but even in that time we’ve noticed more places closing down. There used to be a lot of big shops along this road like Woolworths and Kwik Save.
“Other business owners have told me that Lee Green used to be a good place for parents to meet up and chat while they did their shopping. Now it is just a dead environment and we are definitely suffering.”
The research showed that off-licences had suffered the worst over the past year, with 19% fewer across the country since 2009.
John Alex, who runs an off-licence on Lee High Road, said: “It’s worrying, because the area is definitely getting more empty. There has not been much business here lately, and it makes things much harder for a small shop like us.”
Charles Batchelor, chairman of the Lee Manor Society, a local community group, said: “I think the outcome of this survey has been a little skewed because an important local shopping destination, the Leegate Shopping Centre is due to be closed for redevelopment. As such the present owners are running down lots of their lets so that this redevelopment can take place.
“The Lee Manor Society have been liaising with the council and the developer to have some input on the new centre, with the hope that it will include a good mix of shops, public spaces, and potentially subsidies for smaller retailers so that it isn’t all chain shops.”
The plans for the redevelopment of the Leegate Shopping Centre, owned by St. Modwen, are currently under consideration by Lewisham Council.
Sarah Manningly, a florist from Lee, said that she felt the large Sainsbury’s in Lee town centre was drawing business away from the rest of the high street.
“It’s a real shame that a lot of the unique shops in the area are disappearing, because these huge companies can come in and take away most of their customers too easily. I’d like to see the council taking more care to consider local businesses before they let these supermarkets change the character of a community.”