‘We traders won’t stand for it’: Shopkeepers protest Green Street social distancing measures
PUBLISHED: 12:30 15 July 2020
Traders have protested against “unfair” town hall parking restrictions brought in because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shopkeepers from Green Street in Upton Park stepped away from their businesses on Saturday, July 11 to protest against measures they claim were introduced under the cloak of lockdown.
Kulwinder Sanghera, who chairs Green Street Traders’ Association, said: “Green Street is just not the same as before.
“The lockdown had affected our businesses badly, but then to take already limited parking space away from our customers, the elderly and disabled visitors has had a really bad impact on footfall.”
Bays have been suspended across Newham to allow for safer social distancing.
In an open letter to Mr Sanghera, Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, wrote: “The council will always need to balance the needs of businesses with the needs of residents and the public health imperative to help build confidence and encourage people to shop in Green Street.”
She added the town hall is doing everything it can to reduce the risk of a second coronavirus wave in Newham.
Protest organisers estimate almost 200 traders stood alongside Labour Party councillors Hanif Abdulmuhit, Muniba Khan and Riaz Mirza.
Business owners from Upton Lane, Barking Road and East Ham joined the action along with activists from campaign group Voice for Newham. Greater London Authority member Unmesh Desai went to listen to the concerns.
Mayor Fiaz invited association members to meet her to explain council actions imposed on local authorities by government to allow for social distancing.
She complained the council has been misrepresented by a campaign group making “erroneous” and inaccurate claims about what the local authority is doing.
“It is deeply worrying such misrepresentations are being promoted as this is causing our business community in Green Street, and elsewhere, great anxiety,” she added.
In an email to the council dated June 22, Mr Sanghera is reported to have said there was no consultation with traders about the bays and the move goes against official recommendations to avoid public transport.
However, the mayor described the claims as “simply not true”.
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A Voice for Newham spokesperson said the group supported the council’s wider efforts to reduce congestion and safeguard residents, but added it was a shame it didn’t engage with people before the Green Street measures were introduced.
He questioned the timing of the open letter’s publication, saying the group emailed the council two months ago about their concerns.
Newham has stated time pressures meant there was no scope for consultation.
Mr Sanghera said: “Green Street is a visitor destination with mostly independent businesses who depend on customers from all over the UK and Europe to do their wedding shopping here.
“If we can’t provide adequate facilities then how can we ever expect them to return?”
Green Street is famous for its saree and bridal shops and forms London’s third jewellery quarter with more than 20 jeweller’s.
Protester, Tahir Mirza, who chairs East Ham Labour Party, said: “Green Street is famous all over Europe. It is being completely destroyed.”
He warned businesses could leave the borough over the threat to trade.
Mr Sanghera said: “Security is a major concern for our customers who will want to purchase valuable clothes and jewellery, but travelling on the underground or cycling is just not an option.
“The council’s knee-jerk reaction to sacrifice hard working businesses is going to lead to more social problems like mass unemployment as businesses begin to fail,” he added.
However, in her letter the mayor repeated the local authority’s commitment to work with traders to turn the area into a thriving place for businesses, visitors and neighbours.
Mayor Fiaz said: “We know Green Street [is] grappling with changes to consumer habits and the impact that online shopping has had.
“It is imperative we work together [to] develop approaches that can be implemented in the short term to support businesses during this very challenging time.”
A total of 41 spaces in side streets off Green Street could be available from July 28.
Mr Sanghera said businesses had a “productive dialogue” with the council on Green Street’s future before lockdown, but for it to implement the parking measures “without any discussion” was “unfair”.
“We traders won’t stand for it and have united to fight this all the way,” he added.
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