Hampstead flower seller wilts under rates hike

A FLOWER stall which has sold bouquets in Hampstead for more than 90 years has been left empty after rate hikes by Camden Council

Katie Davies

A FLOWER stall which has sold bouquets in Hampstead for more than 90 years has been left empty after rate hikes by Camden Council.

It is feared the popular spot on the corner of Willoughby Road and Hampstead High Street will never sell flowers again because expensive charges have made it impossible.

Tony Waddell, who used to run the stall, said: "We were there for at least 25 years but the stall has been there for much longer than that.

"My parents were there first, then me and my cousin took over. It was hard to let that go but the costs meant it just got harder and harder and then it was just too much.

"It was really a combination of things - supermarkets have made it hard and then the council started charging a £1,000 licence fee on top of rents.

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"In the end it was too hard to make a living and the long hours and hard work stopped being justified."

The Waddell family took over the stall from Maggie Richardson who ran it for 60 years.

Her work has been honoured with a plaque on the spot called Maggie's Corner.

But now it seems unlikely flowers will ever be sold there again.

Traders say the closure is another example of high business rates, other council fees and private rent hikes forcing them out.

Mr Waddell has taken up work at the Royal Mail describing it as "less stressful and more stable" than running a Hampstead business and other traders have also complained about the costs.

Farid Medid, who runs Al Casbah restaurant on Hampstead High Street, said: "The rates have gone up £10,000 in just four years. I need the tables outside and the council then charges me £200 a time. It is rip-off Camden. All they care about is how to take your money from you and now if you go around Hampstead at night it's dead."

Helen Sherman, who runs the Rosslyn Deli, said: "My rates have gone up to £33,000 and I am going through a rent review with my landlord at the moment.

"I can't run a business like this and no one else can either.

"The hairdresser next to me was forced out and we don't have a butcher anymore - I'm afraid there are going to be more and more closures. Something has to be done, but also local people have to go to their local shops and give us that support too."

A Camden Council spokeswoman said: "In 2002 there was a revaluation of business properties nationally by the Valuation Office which is out of the council's control. Since then there has been an increase in business rates year-on-year due to increases in the level which is set by central government."