'Abused, slapped and spat at': New Romford shopping centre tells of racist abuse suffered by staff

The new Aklu Plaza shopping mall in the former Debenhams are running a fish mela.Picture by Ellie H

At the fish mela this month, customers had the chance to shop at the store, which is due to open as Aklu Plaza shopping mall in early 2022 - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Staff at Romford's new Aklu Plaza suffered racist abuse during a taster event in November, a manager at the site has alleged.

Project manager Noor Uddin said three security staff were allegedly racially abused, slapped and spat at during the fish mela, which was intended to give customers a first taste of the mall before it opens in the new year. 

It came in the same week Aklu Plaza received an anti-social behaviour (ASB) warning letter from Havering Council over an alleged shopping trolley left in a car park. 

While the ASB warning is not a community protection notice (CPN) – and therefore does not carry a fine – Noor was nonetheless “shocked” to receive the letter.

It says it is a "formal warning" that if Aklu Plaza does not "remove the shopping trolley from Angel Way", a CPN may be issued.

A spokesperson for Havering Council said it issued formal warnings to five businesses in the town centre asking them to move abandoned shopping trollies, and will continue to work with Aklu Plaza to build a positive relationship.

Noor said security staff had been tasked with collecting trolleys from various locations, and added: "As far as I’m aware there’s no trolleys left to be seen." 

He described the letter as "heavy-handed" and suggested “a courtesy call from the council or an email saying a trolley is there” would have been more appropriate. 

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“I think the council should have a better protocol in place to start supporting new businesses that don’t know the locality very well,” he added. 

“We are just shocked, on top of all the racial things we have been receiving over the past few months." 

Last week, a far-right activist group protested against the shopping mall. 

“We feel very unwelcome,” he said. 

“We know this is a minority of people who are doing that; generally, people in Romford are fantastic, we have had a very positive response.” 

A spokesperson for Havering Council said: “Abandoned trollies are not only an eyesore, but can obstruct pathways and car parks, being potentially hazardous for residents. 

“We have been in regular contact with Aklu Plaza and will continue to work with them to build a positive relationship as they grow their business in Romford.” 

David Taylor, of Romford Conservative’s town centre team, said they “want Aklu Plaza to succeed” but said he had written to store managers about “concerns raised by local residents”.

Noor said the alleged racist incidents were not reported to the police.