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Olympics resulted in worst summer ever for St John's Wood traders

PUBLISHED: 10:45 21 August 2012

Helen Meller with her daughter Hayley Grobman outside helen's shop 'Hanna Lee' in St John's Wood High Street. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Helen Meller with her daughter Hayley Grobman outside helen's shop 'Hanna Lee' in St John's Wood High Street. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

The Olympics resulted in the worst summer in decades for St John's Wood traders - even though nearby Lord's Cricket Ground was a London 2012 venue.

Shops in St John’s Wood High Street saw business slump by up to 40 per cent as locals left town and regular tourists stayed away to avoid the feared Olympic crush.

Those who did try to shop in the high street were put off by closed roads, driving restrictions and parking suspensions as the Games’ organisers tried to ease congestion and ensure security.

Traders did not even gain business from the thousands of people who turned up to watch the archery sessions at Lord’s – as fans never ventured to the high street.

Helen Meller, the owner of the Hanna Lee fashion jewellery shop in St John’s Wood High Street, added: “The Mayor of London said to keep out of London otherwise the traffic would be terrible, but there was no traffic at all.

“The whole high street has been dead – even when they had archery at Lord’s. Trade was 20 per cent down on a normal summer.

“We were hoping we’d be able to capitalise on Lord’s being an Olympic venue, but even restaurants weren’t busy.”

Maureen Butterworth, who runs Tiddlywinks and Ben’s children’s clothes shops in St John’s Wood High Street, is calling for a business rates rebate as she claims trade was down 30 to 40 per cent.

She said: “They closed roads and they suspended parking meters – and that was only for around 6,000 people [at the archery].

“But when there is a Test match, they can have up to 30,000 people at Lord’s and there is absolutely no disruption at all. A lot of tourists also did not come because they were told to keep away.

“Westminster City Council should have promoted the area. It has been the worst summer I have known since I have been in this shop – and that is 20-odd years.”

To add to traders’ misery, there have been yet more parking suspensions in St John’s Wood High Street this week, because Westminster City Council is installing electronic sensors to enable people to use their smartphones to find empty parking spaces.

Labour London Assembly member Murad Qureshi, who lives off Bell Street, Marylebone, said: “People shouldn’t have been told to stay away. That’s a serious loss of trade. I just hope that when the cricket takes place this weekend, that can make some amends.”

The council said it did encourage people to come into town once the Games had begun.

Kieran Fitsall, the council’s parking development manager, said it had divided up the parking sensor installation work into four separate sessions to “keep disruption to an absolute minimum”.

Transport for London said that the numbers travelling through St John’s Wood Tube station had actually increased during the Olympics, that parking restrictions had been intended to ease congestion for local residents, and that people “did not stay away from London” but “simpley changed the time or way in which they travelled”.

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