The Mayor of Tower Hamlets has called on Network Rail to rethink its decision to inflict damaging rent increases on hardworking small businesses based in railway arches across the borough.
Mayor John Biggs and Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman (Cabinet Member for Work and Economic Growth) have written to the Secretary of State for Transport and the Chief Executive of Network Rail to urge them to reconsider the decision to hike the rents in advance of selling off thousands of railway arches across England and Wales.
Some businesses have seen their bills rocket by as much as 350 per cent. The impact is already being felt, with a number being forced to find new premises or close their doors altogether.
The council understands that it is part of a strategy to make the apparent value of the national arches portfolio – estimated to be worth around £1bn – look more attractive to investors ahead of the planned sale.
Warning the Secretary of State about the “crippling effect” that the decision will have on businesses in Tower Hamlets, Mayor Biggs and Cllr Uz-Zaman have given their backing to the campaign group ‘Guardians of the Arches’ who have been raising the plight of businesses hit by the rent hike.
The Mayor has also warned of the impact the decision will have on the availability of business space in inner city areas.
Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:
“Tower Hamlets is a hard-working, entrepreneurial borough and home to many small businesses which are so important to our local economy.
“This is a serious threat to small family businesses and jobs right across the country. Network Rail is publicly owned and this decision will do nothing but harm to businesses and communities.
“I strongly urge Network Rail to reconsider this decision.”
Cabinet Member for Work and Economic Growth, Cllr Motin Uz-Zaman, said:
“I have had many Tower Hamlets businesses coming forward to tell me just how worried they are about the sell-off.
“Business space in areas like Tower Hamlets isn’t easy to come by, and the decision by Network Rail to increase rents before they try to sell the arches to the highest bidder is going to cause far more harm than the proceeds from the sale.
“They need to think again about the rent increases rather than trying to turf out their long standing tenants.”