Nour: pressure mounts on landlord

Saja and Salam Shaheen with customers in 2012
Serving the community for decades: Nour proprietors Saja and Salam Shaheen (centre) with customers in 2012

Campaigners have increased pressure on the owners of Brixton’s covered markets over the threatened eviction of the iconic Nour Cash & Carry store in Market Row.

Local Coldharbour ward councillor Scarlett O’Hara last night (3 June) submitted a petition to a full meeting of Lambeth council to keep Nour in its current premises in Market Row.

“Coldharbour councillors support the iconic community shop in their fight against eviction by Hondo Enterprises,” she said.

On the same day, the #SaveNour campaign prompted a change in the position of UK Power Networks, which is due to oversee construction of a new electricity sub-station in Nour’s current premises.

Hondo Enterprises runs Market Row and Brixton Village which are owned in partnership with giant US-based finance firm Angelo Gordon through companies based in Amsterdam.

It says that Market Row must have a new “three-stage” electricity supply and that the only site suitable for the large sub-station needed is the premises that Nour has occupied for more than 20 years.

The site is unique in having access from both Market Row and Electric Avenue.

In February this year UK Power Networks (UKPN) told the Blog that it had designed an enhancement scheme for Market Row.

It said: “A number of options were carefully explored for the location of a new electricity substation, but the one chosen [Nour] is the only place suitable within this site to provide power where it is required.”

However, when approached recently by the #SaveNour campaign, and later by the Blog, it made a crucial change to this position, saying only that its design team had recommended “the most suitable option”, adding: “However ultimately it is always a customer’s decision where on their property the new substation is constructed.”

Local activists point to the case of the Flower Lady shop next to Herne Hill station whose proprietor was told by the then owners Network Rail that her shop was the only possible site for a sub-station.

Yet that sub-station is to be built for the new owners of nearby railway arches, the Arch Company, in one of its arches.

Nour's Saja Shaheen
Nour’s Saja Shaheen

Hondo Enterprises secured an eviction notice against Nour on the grounds that it needs to build the sub-station in its premises. The notice would take effect on 22 July.

Hondo has always stated a desire to keep Nour in the market and is has been for months engaged in gruelling negotiations with its owners over a site and rent.

A Hondo spokesperson told the Blog: “Following a request for a new electricity substation in Market Row a number of options were carefully explored for its location. The one chosen is the only place suitable within this site to provide power where it is required.”

The SaveNour campaign said it had reached out to UKPN “and they were very clear that it is always the property-owner’s decision where on their property the new substation goes”.

It asked: “Why are Hondo trying to shift the blame onto UK Power Networks, instead of taking responsibility for their own cruel choices? Could it be because evicting our community shop at a time like this is an obvious injustice?

“At a time when companies are finally beginning to be held accountable for their treatment of marginalised communities, could it be that Hondo do not wish to be the face of this merciless treatment of an immigrant-owned business?

“We at @SaveNour think UKPN’s statement makes clear that there are other viable locations for the substation.

“The community says: Hondo must find somewhere else for it to go. Evicting Nour is not an option. Leave our community shop alone to serve the people of Brixton as it has done for over 20 years.”

In 2019 Stafford Geohagen, proprietor of Healthy Eaters, which, like Nour, is sited between Market Row and Electric Avenue, had to take the registered owners of Market Row – the Amsterdam based company AG Market Row B.V. – to court to get his lease renewed.

If Nour can go, what else could we lose?