The owners of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre have waived rent for independent traders and pledged to ensure that "essential food and pharmacy facilities" remain available if the COVID-19 crisis is unresolved when the building is closed.
Last week we reported that Delancey, which is leading the redevelopment of the site, continued to work towards a 30 July shutdown for the centre.
A Twitter poll on the @SE1 account last week revealed 72 per cent support for a rethink of the centre's closure date, with 28 per cent agreeing that the building should close as planned.
The centre – which opened 55 years ago this week on 26 March 1965 – contains Iceland and Co-op supermarkets and Boots and Superdrug pharmacies which are classed as essential services during the COVID-19 near-lockdown.
Now Delancey has given a further update on its response to the developing coronavirus crisis.
"We are monitoring and actively managing the ongoing situation around COVID-19," a Delancey spokeswoman told the SE1 website.
"Our commitment is to keep the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre open through this period giving access to supermarkets, pharmacies and other essential services. We will do this for as long as statutory authorities permit us to.
"In order to help to ease some of the financial impact of the ongoing public health situation will have on the shopping centre traders, we have waived rent and service charge payments for all independent traders. This discount will apply until closure of the shopping centre in July.
"We are also working hard to support local charitable efforts to ease concerns over food supplies and isolation, as well as putting plans into place to ensure that our vital community hub project can continue to offer virtual interaction. www.communityhubse1.co.uk launched today with online classes and a daily updated guide to those shops still open in and around the shopping centre.
"In addition, we have offered the NHS 70 spaces in the shopping centre car park, as well as vacant retail space for storage too. A number of other initiatives to help during these exceptional times are also being explored.
"We can confirm that we continue to target the end of July this year for final closure of the centre ahead of redevelopment and want to maintain as much certainty as possible for our traders in these otherwise uncertain times.
"However, we must continue to monitor this closely against the evolving situation. We are continuing the delivery of Castle Square, being 11 weeks into a delivery programme to June this year and this must be complete before final closure.
"We will also be ensuring that essential food and pharmacy facilities remain available in Elephant & Castle should the current crisis remain unresolved in July.
"Whilst we fully respect all parties' rights to campaign, we would urge and ask them to refrain from seeking to generate controversy through the coronavirus when we and our traders are working sensitively and responsibly through the current situation. We continue to be happy to work constructively with all parties."
The Up the Elephant Campaign – which is continuing to challenge Southwark Council's decision to approve the scheme – told us: "Delancey's commitment to keep the centre open as long as possible is welcome, as is their commitment to maintain essential food and pharmacy facilities.
"We would welcome a similar commitment that the centre will not close, until all traders are relocated or suitably compensated, otherwise the only certainty for many is that they will lose their place of business.
"Those traders who have been offered relocation space need financial help to relocate their business successfully. Delancey has not to date offered sufficient funds, as many have testified
"All these problems have been rendered acute by the coronavirus crisis. They must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
"We too remain happy to work constructively with all parties, but it is the lack of social housing and the unjust and unfair treatment for traders that has made the shopping centre scheme controversial. We hope that Delancey can remedy both these shortcomings, even at this late stage."
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