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‘Pandemic crisis’ plea to chancellor by East End traders to stop railway arch firms going under

PUBLISHED: 10:00 06 May 2020

Railway arch businesses call on Chancellor for rates relief after pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike Brooke

Railway arch businesses call on Chancellor for rates relief after pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Hundreds of small businesses in railway arches could soon go to the wall in east London because of “cracks of government support” during the pandemic emergency, campaigners claim.

Lockdown London... railway arch businesses facing tough times ahead. Picture: Mike BrookeLockdown London... railway arch businesses facing tough times ahead. Picture: Mike Brooke

Three out of every four small firms under railways up and down the country won’t be able to pay the rent after the Covid-19 crisis is over, a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak warns.

It follows a survey by East End Trades Guild and the Guardians of the Arches lobby group showing 77 per cent of businesses will fail to meet their next payments, with 42pc not receiving any government support.

The letter sets out four “urgent things” the trades guild says the government should do, such as bringing in ‘London weighting’ for small business support and extending help to suppliers down the chain.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs meeting angry National Rail tenants in the motor trade in 2018. traders Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets mayor John Biggs meeting angry National Rail tenants in the motor trade in 2018. traders Picture: Mike Brooke

“These are exactly the types of business the government says it wants to support through this crisis,” Guardians managing director Leni Jones said. “But too many are falling through the cracks and facing immediate bankruptcy.

“We are business people who are not looking for free handouts. But local businesses, service providers and community organisations must be protected to keep our economy running, before it’s too late.”

The Guardians organisation was launched in Bethnal Green two years ago at the start of a campaign to knock rent hypes into the sidings when National Rail sold off all the arches around the UK with a diverse mix of tenants from micro-breweries and hairdressers to the East End’s motor repair trade.

Railway arch businesses like Derek Sansom's Bethnal Green cafe and bar in Dunbridge Street thrown off track by pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike BrookeRailway arch businesses like Derek Sansom's Bethnal Green cafe and bar in Dunbridge Street thrown off track by pandemic crisis. Picture: Mike Brooke

The rent hypes unleashed fury from the mayor of Tower Hamlets who met small businesses in the motor trade facing collapse. The traders set up the Guardians and the fight went nationwide.

But now the pandemic threatens a final nail in the coffin unless business rates for small firms are eased down.

Research into their financial prospects has uncovered “a litany of problems” showing how government support is failing to reach small firms now at risk of bankruptcy, mainly through rocket high London rents that make them ineligible for support.

Facing the wall... railway arch businesses facing bancruptcy says East End Trades Guild. Picture: Mike BrookeFacing the wall... railway arch businesses facing bancruptcy says East End Trades Guild. Picture: Mike Brooke

They call for the Small Business rates relief threshold for rental property to be increased from £15,000 to £25,000 to match firms outside London operating in cheaper premises.

Railway arch businesses are already getting a three-month “rent holiday” because of the emergency, negotiated by the Guardians with the land owners, but is fast running out.


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