The owner of one of the Elephant and Castle’s most longstanding independent firms has appealed to Southwark council in a final effort to save his business.
Rakesh Patel, of Pricebusters DIY and hardware store, has written to Southwark’s director of planning, the leader of the council, Cllr Kieron Williams and other cabinet members.
Pricebusters had to leave the Elephant shopping centre when it was demolished and Mr Patel has asked Southwark to ensure that developers Lendlease and Delancey keep their promises and provide enough financial assistance for Pricebusters’ successful relocation to Elephant Park, where he has been offered a new unit.
Mr Patel has managed to raise more than £550,000 himself, but still faces raising an additional £238,000, even after grants from both developers for relocation as part of what is known as an S106 agreement with Southwark council.
Mr Patel said: “It was a mammoth task to raise what I did.
“Even when Southwark said I would have to find £238,000 more, I did my best to find it. But it is not possible for a small independent trader to get this kind of money, and without it my business will be finished.
“We were assured that we would get the funds we would need to relocate and that this was written into the legal agreements that Southwark had with Lendlease and Delancey.
“I am simply asking Southwark to enforce these agreements.
“Lendlease and Delancey are only offering a fraction of the total relocation costs, despite the legal agreements.
“Lendlease’s offer of £200,000 is for me to do the work that they should have done themselves, to bring the unit up to a basic standard.
“They also say that I can have £160,000 up front, but I have to accept a higher rent to the value of that amount when I move in.
“Lendlease are giving with one hand, only to take away with the other.”
Delancey is offering £192,000, but Mr Patel said: “This is nowhere near enough, because the relocation costs are so high. I am not asking for a handout. I will be putting everything I have into this.
“I have itemised everything in my budget to Delancey and they are all things we were told there would be funds for, under the legal agreement. I proposed that we divide the costs more or less equally between myself, Lendlease and Delancey.
“I think that this is fair and I wanted Southwark to support this, but instead they asked me to accept Lendlease and Delancey’s offers, leaving me with a massive bill I simply cannot meet.’
Mr Patel has not given up all hope. He said: “I am appealing to Southwark to live up to their pledge that no-one would be left behind in Elephant’s regeneration.
“We were in the shopping centre for 35 years and had a comfortable business that supported six families, before we were forced to close for the demolition.
“We have been unable to trade for a year since then, while the negotiations with Delancey have been going on.
“I just want to get Pricebusters up and running again and am depending on Southwark being true to their word to do this.”
Southwark council has so far not commented.
Pictured top: Rakesh Patel