TRADERS at a Catford shopping centre have been left “gobsmacked” after being given four weeks to clear up and leave.

Lewisham Council bought Catford Shopping Centre, including Catford Mews off Winslade Way, for £11.5m in February last year.

The centre is currently home to around 411 businesses and stalls, including clothes, accessories and music sellers.

But on May 26, Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited, which runs the centre on the council’s behalf, informed 30 stallholders in the Mews they had until July 3 to leave, in line with the month’s notice stipulated in their license.

The council feels the Mews is no longer financially viable and wants to rent the premises to a single trading unit.

Paulette Brimble has run Darrell and Paulette, a hairdressing salon, there for 21 years.

She said: “Receiving the letter was devastating. We have been here for so long my customers are my friends.

“Darrell, my partner who started the salon with me, killed himself eight years ago.

"If he was here today he would probably hang himself again.

“The council is supposed to be helping small businesses but instead it is putting 30 of us out of work.”

She added: “I thought I would work here until my retirement but now I am not being given that option. It’s horrible.”

David Johnson and his wife Sharon have run clothing stall Spice One for 21 years.

Mr Johnson said: “We’re gobsmacked. We were notified by a security guard bringing us the letter.

“The only support I’ve received is an offer of cardboard boxes to pack my stuff up in.”

Securing a viable commercial tenant for the whole unit would increase rental income for the council.

In order to buy the shopping centre the council took out a loan which was to be paid back by the rents from retailers.

Quote from Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited

A spokesman for Catford Regeneration Partnership Limited (CRPL) said: "The Mews is not financially viable. Despite efforts by CRPL to improve footfall in the Mews including increased marketing, many of the units remain vacant and the poor trading conditions mean that the majority of unit holders are in arrears.

“We appreciate that the news of the Mews closure will have been difficult for some licensees that may have been there for a long time or have significant levels of stock to clear. The company has therefore offered to meet with any licensees who wish to do so to discuss what assistance can be offered."

Lewisham council is offering each trader advice and support to find alternative premises.

What some more stallholders had to say

News Shopper: Elaine Walker

Elaine Walker has run her tailoring stall, Diamond Fashions, for nine years. She said: “I was dumbstruck when I received the letter and haven’t slept since. I am really worrying about what I am going to do.”

“The way that they have approached it is like my livelihood doesn’t mean anything. There wasn’t even an inkling that this was going to happen. It has just come out of the blue.”

The mother of three added: “How am I supposed to support my children and my sick parents? I have clients with jobs booked until Christmas and can’t tell them where I will be moving to. It’s ridiculous.

News Shopper: Modupe Ololu

Modupe Ololu told News Shopper that Shaki, an African clothing stall, has been run by her family for 20 years.

“How can we pack up in four weeks what we have spent two decades creating? Where are we supposed to keep our stock?

“We don’t have anywhere to go and don’t have enough time to find the huge deposits other places want. As well as thinking about all of this, we are out of a job.”

She added: “We are hoping to speak with the management to see if anything can be done because it has all just happened so quickly.