Despite progress being made to remove controversial scaffolding from the Nestlé Tower, locals remain doubtful that "anything will happen".

Meanwhile, shop owners in the 1960s arcade below say they are "counting time" and often get no passing trade throughout the day.

R&F Properties, a large Chinese development company, began redeveloping the tower into more than 200 flats in 2019 after purchasing the tower and the adjoining Grade II-listed Segas House in 2017.

However, the redevelopment came to an abrupt halt in 2020 and the sole remaining trace of work on the tower is the scaffolding that still encases it today.

While this pause risked being permanent due to the financial and legal difficulties experienced by the owner, there are signs that progress may be resuming.

The few shop owners left on St George’s Walk, which runs beneath the St George’s Tower (its official name) say they feel a deep sense of uncertainty about the future.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), shop owner Moshin Akbary said: “It’s a dead place. The dilemma is that the company who were going to develop it is now not doing anything with it. I think it’s a management problem and they don’t care. This is not the St George’s Walk we want.”

Near Mr Akbary’s Mail Smart postage shop sits Posh Clinic. It is one of five shops on St George’s Walk owned by businessman Deniz Sengul.

Speaking to the LDRS, he confirmed that the rare sign of activity on the side of the tower was workmen in the process of removing the scaffolding.

He said: “A few weeks before the New Year, we got news saying the new buyers do not want the scaffolding. I heard they paid £2 million for the scaffolding in the first place and they aren’t happy with it. I think the scaffolding will be coming down in two weeks.”

Eagle-eyed television fans would have even noticed the tower featured in the recent ITV idents.

However, the ident neglects to include the emblematic logo of the company that made the tower famous. Furthermore, it does not show the scaffolding that currently surrounds the tower’s bottom half.

Despite this news of its removal after years of stalled development, Sengul remained concerned about the state of the St George’s complex.

He said: “They are keeping us in the dark at the moment. 

“I don’t know what they are going to offer us. They might give us the notice to move or they might give us some benefits. I don’t think this will happen because we are not secure tenants and they might offer the money to the leaseholder instead. We don’t have a lot of power down here or someone that can help us.”

Both Sengul and Akbary told the LDRS that they were previously given three months notice to vacate their properties when the tower was purchased a few years ago.

While this caused them both significant concern, nothing transpired after the notice period and their shops remain in limbo on St George’s Walk.

Meanwhile, shop owners along the parade believe business has suffered as a result of the stalled redevelopment.

The eastern half of St George’s Walk was demolished in 2018 to make way for a new public square and hundreds of flats as part of a planned £500 million redevelopment.

Sengul told the LDRS: “Since the other building was demolished a few years ago, people think St George’s Walk is demolished as well. From Park Street and coming down to St George’s Road, you can only see one sign saying that we’re here. You wouldn’t know we’re here.”

As was made clear to the LDRS, the shop owners have plenty of ideas about how they could inject life into the arcade.

Mr Akbary said: “Even some weekly market stalls placed along the arcade would help business. It would get the people to come in. We need to get more local people to shop here.”

The arcade, which has been the backdrop for several films including a new superhero film starring Idris Elba, is poorly signposted from the street.

Furthermore, changes to bus stop locations mean the arcade often suffers from shopper visibility.

However, shop owners also told the LDRS of the lack of support they’ve received from Croydon Council, despite its offices being a stone’s throw away on Mint Walk. 

Sengul told the LDRS of his negative experiences, saying: “Five weeks ago I sent an email to Jason Perry but I didn’t get a response. 

“The town hall is only over the road. Once I caught him while he was walking past and asked him why he never comes down to say hello. We only see them when the election is coming up but as soon as they sit down on their chairs they forget about us.”

Despite these setbacks, there is an air of resilience among the shop owners on St George’s Walk.

While footfall may be low, many have turned to online business as a way of keeping business going. 

Mr Akbary told the LDRS: “Business I have here is still really good, I do a lot of marketing and get people coming in and sending things abroad. I really want to take the business to the next level but it’s hard. We’re just counting the time at the moment.”

At the other end of the walk, sitting right beneath the tower, is UK Beauty Supplier. The shop, which specialises in African hair and beauty products, has been there for seven years.

The owner, Titi, told the LDRS: “I do most of my business online now and use this shop more for storage now. Sometimes whole days go without people coming into the shop.”

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Despite her thriving online business, Titi told the LDRS that the lack of passing trade has convinced her to relocate to another building across Wellesley Road.

She said: “We are moving to another store on Norfolk House, it will be much busier there.”

A spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “The regeneration of Croydon town centre remains a priority for the council. We are continuing discussions with the owner of this key town centre site, to get it redeveloped for the benefit of local businesses and residents.”

R&F Properties was approached but declined to comment on the current status of the redevelopment.