Traders in Brixton’s railway arches have slammed Lambeth council for failing to support them in their fight against eviction by Network Rail.
Last month, businesses under the railway arches in the triangle between Brixton Station Road, Atlantic Road and Pope’s Road were told they were being kicked out by Network Rail to make way for refurbishment.
Traders were told they would have to vacate their premises and were offered no assurances they would be able to return to the units where many have worked for decades.
Now Lambeth cllr Jack Hopkins has been accused of helping Network Rail bosses by ‘buying them time’ to get into a stronger position.
Jose Cardoso, from A & C Continental Deli, also said cllr Hopkins and Network Rail had failed to provide ‘proper information’ during the murky process.
“Getting Network Rail to provide a few facts and figures to us in May, a month before they plan to serve notice on us, for a development they have been planning in conjunction with Lambeth council for several years, is not something Jack Hopkins should regard as an achievement for the traders,” said Cardoso. “What he has done is brokered extra time for Network Rail, putting them in a much stronger position.”
Many owners fear the premises will be given to big chains as Brixton’s popularity and rents soar.
A meeting between affected traders, the council, Brixton Business Improvement District (Brixton BID) and Network Rail produced more questions than it did answers.
The Brixton Bugle was asked to report proceedings by one of the traders, but was ejected from the meeting by a council press officer. The Brixton Pound was also not allowed into the Recreation Centre for the encounter.
Cllr Hopkins told the Bugle: “For me it was about getting the Network Rail bosses in the room so they could hear the stories and some of the challenges and respond to that.
“There have been a lot of people who want me to scream and shout and rock the boat but what I am interested in is getting Network Rail to a place where they engage with me. I agree, they have to come back with figures and it has to be sooner than May.”
Network Rail have said they are committed to allowing current traders to return on “affordable rents” but have consistently been unable to provide any information at all on what that might be – although one trader reported that a Network Rail representative told him it would be an jump of at least 300 per cent.
Lorne Mash, from the Mash & Sons fishmongers, which has been open since 1932, said “after two hours at that meeting our position was no clearer than it was when we first received the letter.”
Humera Shafiq, from S&S Textiles, whose unit would be destroyed under the refurbishment plan, said at the meeting they asked for future rent figures but were given nothing.
“They weren’t even able to give us a rough estimate of what the rises would be. They’ve known about this for a long time, how can they not have any figures at all?”
Bill Linksey, chair of The Brixton Society, said: “The process has been too opaque… These latest developments, with closed meetings and press not being allowed in, it seems like everything is going on behind closed doors.”
A petition calling for Network Rail to halt the evictions and for Lambeth council to do everything it can to protect the businesses was begun by Brixton Blog and has been signed by nearly 20,000 people.
For more on the arches evictions and the Save Our Shops campaign pick up a copy of the Brixton Bugle today