BUSINESS owners have criticized the developers for leaving them in the shadow of the scaffolding for over four years and turning their streets into a ghost town.
Locals in Croydon, South London, say they have been trapped in a new construction nightmare that has forced their shops to shut down.
Half of St George’s Walk, a 1960s shopping parade packed with independents, was torn down in 2018 for redevelopment.
The south side of the complex was demolished to make way for a new public square and hundreds of apartments as part of a £500 million overhaul by R&F Properties.
But promises of a facelift for the area failed, with residents complaining that construction had stalled for four years.
There’s no sign of the three tower blocks set to replace the iconic Nestle Tower – still covered in monster scaffolding.
The 25-story building has been abandoned since the company left the county in 2012 to move offices to Manor Royal in Crawley.
R&F began work in 2019 to turn it into more than 200 apartments – but work stalled for some time the following year.
But the giant scaffolding has stood firm on the 250-foot tower ever since, despite complaints from residents of the eyesore.
A string of businesses that say they are clinging to survival lie on the street below on the other half of St George’s Walk.
Traders say the area has been marred by sluggish redevelopment, which has instead led to a flurry of anti-social behaviour.
Locals explain the ugly scaffolding also reduces traffic, as passersby don’t even know they’re still there.
According to Hauwa Mohammed, the lack of nearby parking also affects the number of customers.
The business owner, who runs the Big Wharf African grocer, says MyLondon: “It’s very, very quiet here right now and it’s deteriorating.
“People use the other end as a toilet.
“People get annoyed with us saying how can they come and shop when there’s no parking space without having to go straight to the Whitgift Centre.
“I want to know what[for St George’s Walk] And if there’s a way I want to stay here.”
Moshin Akbary echoed her complaints, explaining that his MailSmart company was down because potential customers didn’t know he was still active.
He explained that there has been a significant decline in the past 5 years since he took over, fueled by antisocial behaviour.
Moshin raged: “With the fences up, people can’t see it open, other businesses here have very low visitor numbers.
“My customers are even hard to find [us] Sometimes, everyone finds it difficult to come here.
“There was anti-social behavior and graffiti on the storefront.
“We don’t mind children coming here to play but we don’t like people coming here smoking, graffiti and vandalism.
“There are no developments yet and I think the council should do more to help us here.”
He called on Croydon Council to add a number of parking spots with a 30-minute limit to help increase traffic for local businesses.
Oneresidents also took aim at the council, claiming it had stood still while the yob took over and hastened the demise of the area.
They also urged officials to encourage R&F to continue building and removing the eye-catching scaffolding.
They say MyLondon: “The local government needs to push them to do something, Croydon Council used to come and clean up here but they don’t anymore.
“Now that people come and urinate in the arcade, that’s unacceptable and it’s affecting our small businesses here.”
Pete Joel, gym director of My PT, admits that while his business doesn’t rely on transfers, it would be in trouble if that were to happen.
He said: “When we first moved in, Nestle was still operating so the number of visitors was amazing.
“This location is great for our business because we don’t depend on customer volume, otherwise we wouldn’t exist.”
However, Joel said low rents in the area have allowed his business to thrive – as they have now taken over four units.
The personal trainer said he still had hope that St George’s Walk could be saved, but it needed “people and a little life.”
Now the focus is on why R&F has suddenly stopped supplying the tools, with rumors circulating that asbestos was found in Nestle Tower and would cost £4m to remove.
However, these claims have not been proven.
Croydon Mayor Jason Perry confessed that he would love to see redevelopment continue as well, but said his hands are currently tied.
He explained: “I had R&F here and I was there, they said they had plans to redevelop that site.
“It’s important that we make it move, it’s an important central site.”
The mayor said the only option for the council to control the site was to issue a mandatory purchase order.
Mr. Perry added: “I’m currently working with the current owners to get them to redevelop their site. This is a huge mixed-use site that will provide jobs and housing. for the town center.”
The Sun Online has contacted R&F for comment.