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Lee traders hope for festive turnaround at Leegate shopping centre
IT WAS once branded the country's worst shopping centre, but traders in Lee are hoping a festive event will continue a turnaround in the site's fortunes.
Leegate shopping centre hopes to create a Christmas buzz by hosting a fun-filled festive day on December 20 from 1pm to 8pm.
The centre, whose £40m redevelopment by owner St Modwen has faced delays, was labelled as Britain's worst shopping district in 2010 due to the high number of vacant units.
But since then, traders and people living in the neighbouring estates have got together to inject some new life into the place with art events, an organisational group called Lee Green Lives, a community centre and a weekly Wednesday market.
Ward councillor Cllr Jim Mallory said: "Green shoots are perhaps not the right words to symbolise our optimism in the middle of winter, but the event shows that people still believe it worth trying to make things happen, not just for the shops but residents who live in the immediate neighbourhood."
The Christmas fair will include rides on a real reindeer, presents from Santa in his grotto and a treasure hunt, children’s party, dinner for their parents, carol-singing, karaoke and a raffle on behalf of Clic Sargent, the children’s cancer charity.
A community art project will depict scenes on the hoardings in front of the burnt-out Sue Ryder shop, which has since reopened at the old Woolworth’s site.
David French, who runs Soul Refresh Cafe, said: "It's improved here but it's a slow, hard climb."
He said of the Christmas event: "We want people to stay in the centre rather than just walking through it on their way to somewhere else.
"Even if they don't spend any money but just stay and enjoy the experience, we'd feel that's a good thing."
Supported by Affinity Sutton and Lewisham Council’s Local Assembly, the fair has been organised by Leybridge residents, Wetherspoons pub, Soul Refresh Cafe and Lee Green Lives.
For more information, visit leegreenlives.org.uk
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