Hampstead traders facing ‘Waterlook moment’ call on No. 10 Downing Street for help

Hampstead Shops Campaign members Sanjay Pattini, Asia Burrows, Safdar Khan and Jessica Learmond Criq

Hampstead Shops Campaign members Sanjay Pattini, Asia Burrows, Safdar Khan and Jessica Learmond Criqui deliver a letter addressed to PM David Cameron to ask that independent stores be charged a reduced business rate. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Independent shop owners from Hampstead have called on the Prime Minister to save Britain’s “dying” high streets by slashing business rates for small traders.

The Hampstead traders have drawn up a survival plan in the face of rising overheads and plummeting footfall – and this week they took their ideas directly to David Cameron’s door.

The group travelled to Number 10 Downing Street last Monday to deliver their key request for a 20 per cent rates cut for small businesses.

They argue that not enough is being done to protect small traders and that shopkeepers are facing a “Waterloo moment” in their struggle to survive.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, who leads the Hampstead Shops Campaign, said: “Although the government says that there was some growth in the UK over the last three months, the high street footfall continues to shrink.

“It is a pandemic for independent traders. The government are not doing enough to help small independent traders on our high streets who can’t compete with chains and the prices they offer, nor with the internet retailers who do not pay the business rates we do.

“If the government doesn’t pull its finger out, more independent traders will fold and high streets will shut.

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“It would be a tragedy for the community.”

The group also called for a commission to be set up to look into a new system of charging business rates which will see out-of-town shopping centres and internet businesses like Amazon “bear their rightful share of rates”.

Ms Learmond-Criqui, a solicitor who lives in Redington Road, says Hampstead has lost several independent businesses in the past few years, most recently Heath Street bakery Le Petit Nicola.

She was joined by Asia Burrows, of 100 Acres top shoy in Heath Street, Safdar Khan of boutique Hampstead Bazaar in Heath Street, and Sanjay Pattni of jewellers Joule in Flask Walk. The campaign is also backed by Ahmed Ali, owner of Simply Scrumptious Cafe in Flask Walk, who says his overheads have reached “breaking point”.

“It’s hit the limit now and it’s impossible to make money,” he said.

“Being an independent shop in Hampstead is much harder than it used to be and it’s hard to see any new independent stores coming to Hampstead – they just won’t be able to survive.”