Shopping centre accused of prioritising wishes of Coca Cola corporation
StreetCube outside SouthSide Shopping Centre
August 18, 2021
The decision by Southside Shopping Centre to require food-stalls set up during the pandemic in its forecourt has led to a furious response from business owners and customers.
Some of the stalls in front of the centre on Wandsworth High Street are semi-permanent and have been at the location for two and a half years but others that ‘popped-up’ during the pandemic are housed in gazebos including StreetCube which provides a solar-powered sustainable street kitchen from which chefs can perform and perfect their own recipes, based on a more sustainable food system. Now some of the stalls are being asked to vacate the space by the end of the month.
Pascal Gerrard, founder of StreetCube says, “We’ve brought a lot more footfall to the space and really the consumer has a choice into what they should buy and eat and, although we respect our landlord and their decision to support their retailers… Streetcube is trying to do something really good for the community and for the planet.”
Pascal Gerrard, founder of StreetCube
Customers have rallied in support and a petition in favour of keeping the stalls has reached over 3,000 signatures. The sponsors of the petition blame Coca Cola for the decision to force out the food stalls. The multi-national drinks corporation owns Costa Coffee which has a branch near where the pop-ups are situated.
The petition page states, “We have all struggled through lockdown, but few have struggled as much as chefs. We lost 70% of our outlets, many have had to leave the UK, but those of us with families have found it very hard indeed.
“But then the StreetCube project invited us to join their sustainable street gastronomy project in Wandsworth, at the wonderful Southside shopping centre, on their outdoor piazza. Whilst many shops inside the shopping centre were forced to close, StreetCube stayed open, and was able to help us chefs to keep our families fed, and our communities were able to access food. StreetCube asked for us to comply with strict sustainability guidelines, which means using seasonal organic ingredients, locally sourced, without using plastic or generating waste. We were happy to fall-in, but now we are threatened with losing our income because of Costa Coffee, who complained to our landlord Landsec that we were stealing their business.”
Costa Coffee allegedly complained about the stalls to the landlord
Rhodri Morgan, Wandsworth’s cabinet member for economic development, skills & employment has written a plea for Southside’s bosses to reconsider.
He said, “A number of people have contacted me to share their concerns about changes that are apparently going to be made in relation to some of the businesses that are currently trading outside the front of the SouthSide shopping centre.
“Allowing businesses to trade in this area in the first place was a fantastic initiative, so I would like to thank you for making that decision. However, I understand that there is growing concern from a number of residents because different options for how this space is to be used in the future are being considered, with their fear being that a number of businesses will be told to vacate this space.
“At a time when we know that many residents do not want to meet with others in indoor settings, and also during a time when many businesses are still struggling owing to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, it would feel like a great shame if any of these businesses were removed or relocated.
“I’m sure that the council’s Economic Development Office would be happy to enter into discussions with you if there’s anything practicable we can do to help support this ongoing initiative."
After sending the letter Cllr Morgan added: “It does appear a great shame that a venture which has supported a number of small business and brought pleasure and variety to the town centre could be curtailed. We hope the shopping centre listens to the concerns and wishes of local people on this issue.”
A spokesperson for Southside shopping centre said, “We have a temporary agreement with StreetCube which covers their original three units and we want to clarify that we have not asked for these to be removed.
“During lockdown, StreetCube added several additional pop-up gazebos without formal consent and outside of the agreement we have in place. Since retail and leisure is now fully open, we must consider the impact that these additional pop-ups are having on our other brand partners. As the landlord, we are responsible for ensuring that all our brand partners are able to flourish.
“Unfortunately the high number of these additional pop-ups are restricting visibility and access to some of our brands which is having a detrimental impact on footfall and ultimately their business. For this reason, we have asked StreetCube to remove those pop-ups that do not form part of our agreement with them.
“Southside has always hosted pop-up food stalls operated by local independent traders and this will continue to be available for the traders to apply, while running in a manner that reflects the constraints of the site and in line with the agreements we have in place with all of our brand partners.”