Fears Hampstead village feel is making way for high street clone
Hampstead’s unique appeal to its well-off residents is a village feel within striking distance of the city centre.
But now, according to the great and the good of Hampstead, it is under threat of becoming a high street clone.
Hampstead Town Cllr Chris Knight claims the village is in danger of becoming a “mini Brent Cross” as independent traders fall to rising rents and business rates.
This month has already seen Hampstead Health Shop close its doors, bringing the curtain down on 26 years as a mainstay of Hampstead High Street.
Now Pure Fruits is facing an uphill struggle against rising rents to the council.
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Hampstead actor Tom Conti told the Ham&High: “It was a wonderful place, very different to anywhere else and shops were run by people who lived here. That can’t happen now and that’s sad.
“It makes one’s blood boil when people are put out of business by the council.”
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Finance boss Cllr Theo Blackwell has defended the council’s decision to increase rents, saying it has a legal obligation to obtain market rates for its commercial properties. But employment barrister Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who tried to save the health shop, said this will only see independent traders disappear from Hampstead altogether.
She said: “If the council keep increasing the rent, there is only so much the small trader can take. There is only a small profit margin for fruit or health products whereas chains can have loss-making outlets which can be used to advertise their larger stores. Small traders have no option but to make a profit where they are.
“The community wants these shops to survive, but it is also a matter of social cohesion – it helps Hampstead retain its individual character, which we are losing.”
The Heath and Hampstead Society’s town committee chairman Frank Harding said Hampstead’s character has been eroded over the years and the conservation watchdog was fearful of independent traders losing their foothold altogether.
“I’m concerned we might lose those shops. The larger companies have bigger resources and I’m concerned small traders might not survive.
“People come to Hampstead for the unique character, but there’s less difference now between the village and other high streets and that is a pity.
“Part of the character goes when some of these old shops go, but you do get some new independent shops coming in as well. Now too often when an old shop goes, a multiple [chain store] replaces it.
“We don’t all want to go to Tesco. It’s very nice to walk around the corner and do one’s shopping.”