A bustling Tooting Market and the livelihoods of more than 100 staff remain under threat if Crossrail 2 plants a home in the area.
With recent development plans showing the Crossrail 2 project has now dropped the controversial King’s Road Chelsea station along its route, the project still leaves the fate of Tooting Market stall owners in darkness.
Market Operator Roi Mengelgrein, who last week contacted the Crossrail 2 team, the Tooting MP and London Mayor, expressed his concern at the continuing prospect of demolition and ongoing uncertainty.
He said: “You are forcing the people out, you are pushing them out.
“You are saying to everybody we don’t need you, all we need is our high rents and these big corporate companies to move in.
“I think it is important to explain that these traders are not a Starbucks or some high-street operator who can just get up and move.
“What they make here goes straight to their survival, there is no offshore account, there is no big home, these guys are small businesses that live week to week.”
Forming part of a Tooting’s cultural ecosystem, fears are widespread over what will happen to this local institution amidst increasing uncertainty and many feel the stalls that have housed their businesses in the area for nearly a century must remain.
“If you start hurting their businesses that’s it, the end,” Mr Mengelgrein said.
“Obviously, they are survivors, they will go and find a new market, but you will lose what you have created.
“There is no way to just cut and paste and move it to a different location, you can’t do that and once you tamper with this, it’s over, it’s finished.
“The reason Tooting Market works is because we are a community, if you start messing around and taking certain key elements out of this building, this building will collapse.”
Pointing towards the now global Franco Manca Pizza that began in Brixton Market, Mr Mengelgrein said the area not only offered stall owners an affordable home but was a nurturing hub for future high street retailers.
Co-owner of Love Art, Gemma Lloyd, an art stall housed in the market, believes the historic site embodies the essence of Tooting-its community spirit.
The Tooting resident of 17 years said: “I am massively against the project, it makes me really angry and I can’t buy into it.
“I think they just want to come in and get a piece of the pie and when Crossrail came here they avoided the real questions.
“I can just see in 20 years’ time this will just be a horrible shopping centre called ‘the market’ with really nasty bland corporate flats and we would have to go because we would be knocked down.”
With the looming prospect of Tooting losing a vital piece of its culture Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan said: “When elected I went straight to the people in charge of Crossrail and I said I want to see the plans.
“I wanted to know how this is going to affect the community and we realised that they hadn’t explained before that Tooting Market is going to be under threat so I immediately had a meeting with the market management.
“I will do everything I can to protect Tooting Market and it’s something I’ve been doing ever since being the MP.”
As the change.org petition to stop the area’s demolishment now reaches more than 2000 signatures, the need for local authority action becomes ever more pressing to market businesses.
Mr Mengelgrein said: “I think all local authorities need to put their foot down and do whatever it takes, including refusing the station here if it means the demolition of Tooting Market.
“If there was no alternative and they had to get rid of the market then I think they should put their foot down and say no go somewhere else.”
With the proposal for a Crossrail 2 ventilation shaft to be placed at Tooting Broadway in motion, the project, which aims to improve connectivity throughout the UK, still leaves the future of market owners hanging in the balance.
Michèle Dix, Transport for London’s Managing Director for Crossrail 2 said: “We’ve had a number of conversations with Tooting Market traders to understand more about their concerns and needs and how we could support them, if we go to Tooting Broadway.
“Currently no final decisions have been made and we’ll continue to work closely with the market, and others, as our work continues.”
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