Published: 11 February 2010
by JOSIE HINTON
FOR more than a century it has provided fresh fruit and vegetables to the people of Camden come rain or shine.
But the borough’s oldest market may not survive another year unless action is taken to save it, traders have warned.
Stallholders in Inverness Street Market, once a bustling haven for fresh produce, have told the New Journal they face imminent closure unless flagging sales improve.
They say the lack of customer parking coupled with the removal of a “key” bus stop nearby in November have led to a dramatic slump in already falling sales, worsened by unusually bad weather conditions at the start of the year.
Struggling traders have now called on landlord Camden Council to do more to help their plight, including a rent reduction when the street is covered in snow and they are unable to work.
Serge Mateke, who runs a crepe stall in the market, said: “If nothing is done small traders like us are going to disappear.
“For the last few months we’ve just been spending our days watching each other.
“After seven years’ hard work I struggled to pay my rent this year and was close to losing my license. We’re at crisis point.”
As well as a rent reduction in bad weather, traders have appealed for the reinstatement of the bus stop, used by many elderly customers, and more available parking for both shoppers and traders.
James Hilton, who runs a potato stall, said: “We’re trying to keep going but we’re competing with places like Sainsbury’s which has a free car park. I’m forced to park 20 minutes’ walk away or pay £50 a week in a car park.”
Sammy Nsir, who has run a clothing stall in Inverness Street for six years, added: “I’ve lost 90 per cent of my business since the bus stop moved and in six years I’ve never seen trade this bad.
“I’m very worried about the future, we need action not words.”
The market underwent a £1.5million revamp in 2006, but traders say they have been offered little help with ongoing improvements or advertising to residents.
Dean Cole, who has run a fruit and veg stall for 30 years, said: “People often say they didn’t know we were here. I wanted to get some leaflets printed but sales are so bad I just can’t afford it at the moment. We need to be doing everything possible to attract customers.”
A Town Hall spokeswoman said: “The market is currently running at 100 per cent occupancy and is not under threat. The market has a large gated sign above the entrance from Camden High Street and has ‘first bite’ at the many visitors walking up from the Tube station.
“We are looking to increase signage and promotion of the market.
“We understand that there are not many trader parking bays and our market team are currently looking at whether it’s possible to offer more. However this would mean a reduction in resident parking and would require a formal consultation process.
“The relocation of the bus stop was a key element of the consultation on the Camden High Street upgrade, and 72 per cent of the respondents supported the removal of the bus stop.”