Demolition of the 1960s office blocks in St George’s Walk is set to begin on Monday (November 12) – but the businesses that are left behind are wondering how long they can survive.

The area opposite the Town Hall is owned by Chinese developer R&F Properties which has plans to redevelop the whole area into a town square as well as building up to 900 flats in what could be a 50-storey tower block.

The offices that used to be home to the Fairfield Business School are set to be demolished as well as the buildings on one side of of St George’s Walk behind it.

Work is already underway to transform the Nestle Building into flats – part of the £500 million project from R&F Properties.

Graffiti artist Rich Simmons had a workshop in St George’s Walk for a year but has now moved to a unit at the Business Xchange Hub in Landsdowne Road.

All the businesses on that side of the walk moved out in September.

“It was always on the way down. From when I came in things were already closing up so there wasn’t any foot traffic,” said Rich.

“There were a lot of drug related incidents around there, it is where a lot of people would go and deal.

“For anyone trying to run a business down there it was impossible it worked for me because I was just making art.”

But the artist believes that the regeneration of the area is a good idea.

“I think it needs to happen,” he said.

“Croydon has this huge potential to become the Brooklyn of London.

“We’ve got this huge borough which is 20 minutes from central London – Croydon has had a really bad reputation but since the art revival has taken hold, people are now travelling to Croydon [for street art].

“To have played a part in that has been exciting. It’s only going to get worse here if it doesn’t happen.”

But over on the other side of the walk businesses are struggling to attract shoppers. Already construction that has started on the Nestle Tower has impacted footfall.

Retail manager at haberdashers Rokka Sheek is worried that it will be even quieter when next week’s demolition starts.

Shop manager Kemi Okunola, said: “To be honest there has been plans for it to be knocked down for years and years so everyone has always had it in the back of their minds.

“Since the other half moved out in the first week of September everyone assumes that it is closed on this side too – It has been completely dead.”

Kemi, who has managed the shop for 10 years added: “When we opened there was five members of staff but now it’s just me.

“I think it’s only going to get even worse.

“It is nice that they are redeveloping Croydon but can the businesses that are left survive six years?”


Workers removing asbestos on St George's walk

The London Bridal Boutique opened in St George’s Walk three years ago and has also seen a downturn in business.

Miriam Phinda said: “Obviously I’ve spent a lot of money on it and was hoping that this place was going to be renovated.

“Now it is a dead end, it is a construction site, we are just sitting here and paying bills for nothing.

“Three years ago at least we had footfall. Now it is dead nobody thinks anything is going on here.

“It is such a shame that all the businesses in this area are going to be shut down even though no-one is saying they are going to shut us down now.”

She added that she thinks the construction work going on around the few open shops is a health hazard.

On Tuesday as preparation for the demolition was underway construction workers dressed in white suits could be seen disposing of asbestos.

Deniz Sengul runs Posh Clinic which offers laser hair removal, massage and tattooing.

But he is worried that the works will deter the 11 freelancers he has working at the clinic as well as new customers.

Deniz said work on the Nestle development has already affected trade, with noisy construction making the clinic less peaceful.

“The noise is affecting the massages and clients are not very comfortable,” he said.

“Normally we sell packages but people think this is a construction site – They are scared to come.”


Offices on Katharine Street

He has also bought a cafe, previously called Nosh, a couple of doors down but he worries that customers will think the area is closed and he will lose passing trade.

What are the plans?

Phase one of the development includes the conversion of the Nestle Tower into 290 flats. Work on this has already started.

Phase two is the Queen’s Square development which includes the town square, flats, offices and shops.

Demolition on this site was approved by Croydon Council in September but final plans have not yet been submitted.

When initial plans came in front of a planning committee last month councillors were concerned that a 50-storey tower block containing 900 flats would be too high for the town centre.