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Small business in Network Rail arches facing 350pc rent rises get ‘tenants charter’ pledge from new owners

PUBLISHED: 09:54 13 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:44 13 November 2018

Railway arches new owners promise tenants' rent charter for small businesses. Picture: Mike Brooke

Railway arches new owners promise tenants' rent charter for small businesses. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Small businesses occupying railway arches in east London facing crippling rent rises as much as 350 per cent have been promised a tenants’ charter to safeguard their trading.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs who toured railway arches at Stepney Green to meet traders. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets mayor John Biggs who toured railway arches at Stepney Green to meet traders. Picture: Mike Brooke

It follows a call by Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs for an urgent meeting with developers who have bought up management of 600 arches in the East End from Network Rail.

The traders renting the arches are worried that September’s massive sale, part of a £1.46 billion deal for 3,500 arches and other properties up and down the country, could mean facing yet more crippling rent rises.

The mayor visited some of the businesses in Bancroft Road, Stepney Green, in the summer to hear direct from them about how the rents could threaten to force them to shut up shop.

“These businesses are a community asset and the lifeblood of our economy,” he said last night.

Taxi repair garage in Bethnal Green, one of many small business in railway arches under Liverpool Street main-line.  Picture: Mike BrookeTaxi repair garage in Bethnal Green, one of many small business in railway arches under Liverpool Street main-line. Picture: Mike Brooke

“I’m asking for a meeting with the new owners to see how we can protect them from large rent increases and make sure the best conditions for them.”

He is also backing a call by the Guardians of the Arches action group supported by the East End Trades Guild for “a full and transparent lease audit”.

Network Rail’s rent rises were blamed for putting some traders out of business, leaving some arches remaining empty for months and even years, revealed in the East London Advertiser.

The mayor wants pledges that businesses will not be forced out by exorbitant rents now the arches are owned by Telereal Trillium and Blackstone property partners.

Tower Hamlets mayor meets neighbouring traders at a Stepney Green motorbike repair works in the Bancroft Road railway arches. Picture: Mike BrookeTower Hamlets mayor meets neighbouring traders at a Stepney Green motorbike repair works in the Bancroft Road railway arches. Picture: Mike Brooke

Blackstone’s managing director Andrew Dowler told the Advertiser today: “We have agreed to meet the mayor to talk about our ownership. We are working to make sure the mixed and diverse nature of the tenancies will be maintained, including start ups and established traders.”

The new owners who have now exchanged contracts with Network Rail and wait to take over by the New Year have promised to “review the rent increases” and to consult the businesses.

Telereal’s chairman Graham Edwards gave a pledge: “We anticipate investing in hundreds of arches currently disused to provide space for more businesses and intend remaining sensitive to those that have been long-term tenants of Network Rail.”

The company was looking forward to “the prospect of working with entrepreneurial tenants made up of car mechanics, bakeries, micro-breweries, restaurants, and just about every type of business you can think of”.

But Tower Hamlets Council is determined to ensure that they “keep to their commitment” to create a tenants’ charter to “put tenants first”. The best way to start that trust would be a transparent rent and lease audit, the East End businesses insist.

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