Empty shops in Crouch End: ‘Challenging environment’ sees vacancies rise, but ‘no reason to panic yet’

What can we make of a rise of empty shops in Crouch End? Picture: Sam Volpe/Polly Hancock

What can we make of a rise of empty shops in Crouch End? Picture: Sam Volpe/Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Walking into Crouch End, it’s hard to miss the proliferation of empty shop units.

Three sit next to each other in the Broadway, while the old Pera Turkish restaurant on the end of Hornsey Town Hall is another in a prominent town centre location.

Research by the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum (CENF) showed that, as of December last year, the number of vacant shops in the area has risen compared to the year before.

While borough-by-borough statistics collated by the BBC from government data show that Haringey was forecast in 2019/2020 to lose out on £861,753 in business rates relief to 379 shops empty for three months or less. This would be a 50 per cent drop on the year before, when the council paid out more than £1.6m in tax relief for empty units.

Despite the wider positive trend across the borough, the CENF figures show a more worrying picture: As of December, the number of vacant units has more than doubled from 11 to 24, while the number of food and drink outlets fell 9pc.

Lewis Freeman in Dunn's Bakery, in the Broadway. Picture: Polly Hancock

Lewis Freeman in Dunn's Bakery, in the Broadway. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Mark Afford, the group's chair, said it seemed evidence of "difficult trading conditions", but added: "Last year was the first year in a long time that the number of cafes and restaurants fell.

"They have previously carried us through for quite a few years.

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"And in the first six weeks of this year the trend has continued."

Mark said the forum is hopeful the Hornsey Town Hall redevelopment and the eventual Liveable Crouch End scheme could help give the town centre a boost.

He said: "That's one of the reasons we are not against Liveable Crouch End, this [the funding promised by Transport for London] is probably some of the only money that'll be spent on Crouch End."

Lewis Freeman, the man in charge at the independent bakery Dunn's, which is nearly 200 years old, said: "It's challenging, but a good business can still succeed. There are a number of empty shops in Crouch End, we can't get away from that, but there are new businesses cropping up too."

Lewis, who also heads the Crouch End Traders' Association, added: "The council need to be very wary. With any changes the need to be sure they fully understand the implications for local traders.

"There's no need to panic, but we need to be cautious."

Crouch End Broadway. Picture: Hugh Flouch/Wikimedia Commons

Crouch End Broadway. Picture: Hugh Flouch/Wikimedia Commons - Credit: Archant

George Georgiou, who runs Toff's in Muswell Hill and is part of the Muswell Business group, said he shared the concerns of those down the hill.

He told this newspaper: "It's difficult. Things like parking restrictions can end up putting a lot of people in trouble."

Ahead of changes to the business rates system which will see councils retain more of the income, Cllr Luke Cawley-Harrison bemoaned the rising numbers of empty shops, saying: "It's worrying because of the changes coming to business rates. That's going to be a huge source of income it'll be hit by empty shops. I'd like to see what plans the council have around this. It makes sense for the council to be looking at how to intervene."

Cllr Joseph Ejiofor, leader of Haringey Council, said: "Our council is committed to ensuring that money recycles around the Haringey economy as many times as possible, and part of this strategy is ensuring that our high streets are vibrant and prosperous.

The empty old Cassius and Coco shop in Crouch End. Picture: Sam Volpe

The empty old Cassius and Coco shop in Crouch End. Picture: Sam Volpe - Credit: Archant

"Supporting a diverse and dynamic business community is a key part of our community wealth building agenda."

He said the town hall has a forthcoming "economic development strategy" that was aimed at helping high streets flourish.

According to the council's own latest forecast the town centre vacancy rate in Crouch End was 2pc compared to the national average of 14pc in March 2019, but has risen to 5.38pc - compared to a national shop vacancy rate of 11.8pc.

A spokesperson also said "significant investment programmes" in CCTV, broadband infrastructure and shop fronts was under way and that the council is "planning to increase resources to support the town centres in the west of the borough".

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