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Deadline for East End traders’ Crowd Justice page in legal fight to stop evictions

PUBLISHED: 16:19 07 October 2020 | UPDATED: 13:30 08 October 2020

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs (left) with East End traders Paul Gardner, Leonard Maloney and Sarah Haque handing petition to 10 Downing Street in 2017. Picture: Sarah Ainslie

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs (left) with East End traders Paul Gardner, Leonard Maloney and Sarah Haque handing petition to 10 Downing Street in 2017. Picture: Sarah Ainslie

Sarah Ainslie

Small business facing threat of eviction following the end of the rent freeze during the Covid emergency are facing another challenge meeting a deadline to find £5,000 for their legal crowdfunding campaign.

Not quite in the bag... But Paul Gardner does meet MP Margot James at Downing Street. Picture: Sarah AinslieNot quite in the bag... But Paul Gardner does meet MP Margot James at Downing Street. Picture: Sarah Ainslie

The freeze on rents coming to an end means the East End Trades Guild has just 12 days left to meet its target or lose what it has been able to raise so far.

The guild has to reach its £5,000 target on the CrowdJustice platform by October 20 for this “all or nothing” fundraiser.

Steep rent increases had been forcing out businesses fropm the East End even before the Covid emergency, especially those bordering The City with growing encroachment from developers and big commercial chains.

One traditional business in Spitalfields already forced out is Gardners’ Bags, now having to move out to Leyton after four generations in the same family.

Paul in his bag supply shop in Commercial Street before rocketting rent forced the 150-year-old family business to move out. Picture: EETGPaul in his bag supply shop in Commercial Street before rocketting rent forced the 150-year-old family business to move out. Picture: EETG

Yet the well-known Commercial Street shop premises now lies empty for the first time since 1870.

“Rent increases forced me out of Commercial Street,” owner Paul Gardner revealed. “My business had been trading here for 150 years.

“Landlords have got to come to their senses and realise that small businesses have been decimated by the Covid emergency. Many will cease trading.”

The traders are urging “anyone who values the East End’s vibrant independent community” to support the CrowdJustice appeal.

They were already fighting to stay in business with the economic recession during the pandemic which has proved devastating.

The moratorium on evictions for commercial tenants is being phased out by the end of the year.

Those unable meet payments face legal costs as landlords resort to court action to recover rent that many traders cannot pay due to government-enforced business closures, just as the furlough scheme is winding up to make things worse for them.

Having to cough up backdated rent on top of paying out staff wages will destroy many businesses, it is feared.

Urban Species trader Sarah Haque said: “We don’t want to be driven out. We want to live and work in east London because that’s our history and want to make a future as well.”

The traders’ organisation automatically gets match-funding from a business supporter if it reaches the £5,000 goal by October 20. It could then start a fighting fund to hire specialist commercial property law solicitors.

The guild, which created an Affordable Workspace manifesto in 2018 to press for fair rents, has its own CrowdJustice page as well as #BuildBackBetter social media hashtag on Twitter @EastEndTrades, on FaceBook @EastEndTradesGuild and Instagram @East_End_Trades_Guild.

It is also relaunching its membership drive for more small business in east London join up.


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