Can Surrey Street survive the help of the council?


By - Friday 16th March, 2018

The market is in trouble, and the free market can save it


Photo author’s own.

Ronald Reagan famously said that “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’”. Maybe you can, but I don’t recall a situation when I’ve thought “if only the council could get involved, things would be so much better”. I also can’t think of a government service that has impressed me more than a service that I’ve received from a for-profit or volunteer organisation.

This also seems to be true for Surrey Street Market. Trading under charter since 1276, the market has survived plague, civil war and the blitz. The real question today is can it survive the ‘helping’ hand of government. In line with other retail outlets in recent years the council has extended the market to Sundays, although it has also stopped the weekday traders from moving to seven-day trading. Last year the market was moved for ten weeks for resurfacing work which included street art installations costing £1.1 million.

Anyone who sees the market regularly will have spotted the reduction in stallholders. Now the numbers are being reported. In the period 2016-2018, permanent traders fell 21% to 23, and causal traders fell 24% to 19. That’s £91,666 of council taxpayers’ money spent per trader lost. I’m reminded again of the nine most terrifying words in the English language. This is after seeral years of stable numbers of traders.

The best way for politicians and government or council officials to help is to sit on their hands

I have written previously on how the council’s interference in Croydon’s night time economy had a detrimental impact on the very thing that it was trying to help. Thankfully, they are now starting to reverse many of the licensing policies. Years of big ideas from both red and blue councils have led to empty shops. Large swathes of the town are building sites and we have, for now, lost the Fairfield Halls, whose redevelopment works are overrunning.

Many things have contributed to the fall in traders in the market. New shopping habits, changing work patterns and the changing population of central Croydon are among them. Council decisions to change the character of the street, change the character of the market, and move them for ten weeks won’t have helped.

No doubt the redevelopment of Surrey Street was done with the best intentions, by people who felt that the improvements would (naturally) improve things. I’m sure that those who commissioned the changes truly felt that painted stairs and a boy on a wall would make people buy more fruit and veg. Success, however, is achieved by doing good, not feeling good. The best way for politicians and government or council officials to help is to sit on their hands and let the traders of the market or entrepreneurs of the town generally make their own decisions. Surrey Street market has existed for over 700 years. Let’s hope that it can stay free from government help and trade for at least 700 more.

Michael Swadling

Michael Swadling

Michael works in the IT Industry for and has lived in Croydon all of his life. He has been a governor in local schools for over ten years. During the referendum he was the Croydon Area Manager for Grassroots Out, Leave.EU and Vote Leave. He is a member of UKIP campaigning for the UK to leave the European Union and he was the UKIP candidate for Croydon North in 2017. The Croydon Leave campaign can be followed on Facebook.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/historiccroydon/ Andrew Kennedy

    The 1276 charter for a market is for Croydon, not just for Surrey Street.

    • Michael Swadling

      Andrew – good point well made. I’d never read that way until just now and of course you’re right. Good to learn something new about our great town.

  • keithanthony

    Little by little the Croydon council has sucked the life, and culture out of Croydon, and since living here I have seen them demolish Croydon Old town in order to build two monstrous flyovers that were going to link up with motorways into London that never happened. I’ve seen them demolish Whitgift school to build the Whitgift Center which was in turn demolished to remove a thriving Forum pub, I’ve seen the Scarbrook Road almshouses raised to the ground along with the our historic public pool.

    We’ve also seen many theaters demolished including The Grand, The Davis, The Theater Royal, The Empire, The Old Palladium Surrey Street, The Croydon Hippodrome, The Scala, the Civic Hall Crown Hill, Davis Picture Theater(Davis House), Savoy Cinema 1933, Eros Cinema, and Odeon Cinema.

    Look me in the eye and tell me this is not a cold calculated systematic decimalization of an incredible rich culture rivaling London that had existed in Croydon and tell me that someone didn’t line their pockets doing this ongoing systematic vandalism.

    NB The director David Lean saw his first films at the Scala, North End (saw his first film there in 1921- Hound of the Bakervilles). Orpheus. * Surrey Street & Palladium, 1 Surrey Street

    Croydon is being turned into a soulless concrete blot on the landscape. Take a look below at the CGI of Croydon which is the vision of Westfield and Hammerson I would call them Westfield and Hammer or Westfield and Frankenstein. http://www.thecroydonpartnership.com/