Parking cameras force East End’s Arber printers to fold after 117 years

Gary Arber in his printshop [picture: Spitalfields Life]

Gary Arber in his printshop [picture: Spitalfields Life] - Credit: Spitalfields Life

One of London’s oldest print shop says it is being forced to close down after 117 years because council parking restrictions in the East End are literally driving trade away.

Letterpress machine [picture: Spitalfields Life]

Letterpress machine [picture: Spitalfields Life] - Credit: Spitalfields Life

Gary Arber, 82, is finally calling it a day and has sold the Arber & Co premises that his grandfather Walter opened for business in 1897—where Emmeline Pankhurst got her posters made for the Suffragettes at the turn of the 20th century.

Letterpress machine [picture: Spitalfields Life]

Letterpress machine [picture: Spitalfields Life] - Credit: Spitalfields Life

He put a notice up in the window of the shop in Roman Road, Bow, declaring: “We survived enemy bombing through two world wars and now we are finished, due to Tower Hamlets Council’s parking policy.

“A spy camera on the poles issues fines to every customer who stops outside in a car and the shop no longer earns enough to pay the council’s high business rates.

“Even a local church minister was fined £65 when she stopped her car outside to pick up two heavy boxes of paper for her church.”

Shopkeepers over the years have blamed draconian parking restrictions for “killing off” Roman Road Market. Gary recalls a protest march the traders organised in 1998, which he says got them nowhere.

“We joined all the traders along here, but council just ignored us,” he told the Advertiser. “Many traders just gave up after that.

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“The spy cameras have finished all chances of running a business here. Remote cameras issue parking tickets when customers stop for just a few minutes.

“The Keiser and Hitler couldn’t get us out—but the council’s spy cameras have managed it.”

Gary also pays £6,300 annual business rate on top of the restrictions which discourages customers stopping.

“The council has killed off Roman Road market,” Gary insists. “Trade has become impossible.

“We don’t earn enough to pay rates any more—I had to out £2,000 from my own cash just to pay the rates.”

Gary’s grandmother Emily was a friend of Emmeline Pankhurst. The Wharfedale printing press that produced posters for the suffragette movement is still in the basement, which he is restoring to give to the Bishopsgate Institute.

But all the other letterpress machines have gone, including a 1939 Heidelberg auto-platen and a 1947 Lagonda.

The crippling Business Rate Gary was facing was set nationally by the government, Tower Hamlets council pointed out. It had no control.

A Town Hall spokesman said: “We have assisted all retail businesses, including Arber & Sons, to access £1,000 of Local Retail Relief to support small businesses in paying their rates.”

But the authority insists the Roman Road has a good mix of residential permit bays, pay-and-display bays and a car park—so “there should be no need for shoppers to stop in a ‘no parking’ zone.”

Gary admits it probably is time to go, at 82, but would rather retire on his own terms than be pushed out by remote cameras issuing parking tickets.