The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called for a meeting with Network Rail Chief Executive Mark Carne to discuss its handling of small business tenants in Brixton’s railway arches.
The FSB said it is “concerned about the loss of local businesses, some of whom have been trading from the arches for many decades, and the future vibrancy of one of the country’s most dynamic areas.”
As part of Network Rail’s refurbishment businesses in the arches between Atlantic Road, Brixton Station Road and Pope’s Road will have to vacate for up to a year and when they return will have to pay new rents, likely to be much higher than they currently pay.
Some, like S&S Textiles, will not have a shop to return to to because their current units will be turned into walkways.
FSB said that although Network Rail has sought to make a number of concessions – including unspecified compensation, a delayed schedule and staggering rent rises over a period of time – traders have been left with little certainty over whether they will be able to keep operating and many long-standing employees are fearful for their jobs.
Following a walk around the area last week to meet the local small businesses, the FSB National Chairman John Allan said:
“At a time of declining high streets, Brixton has become one of the most vibrant and busy in the country. This success is a result of the hard work and longstanding commitment of local businesses who have traded even through extreme challenges. We question why Network Rail would not want to do everything in its power to support these successful local businesses, and the unique nature of this part of London.
“Network Rail is one of the largest small business landlords in the country. How it operates in London will be repeated in Manchester, Bristol and Glasgow. As a Government owned enterprise, it should set the standard for how other landlords behave.
“We want to see Network rail taking a much more sensitive approach to this development, working closely with the community and businesses before going ahead with their plans. We also want them to commit to maintaining the character and diversity of businesses that has made Brixton the success it is today. We would not want the area to be turned into yet another ‘clone town’ dominated by a few large brands.”
The petition against the plans has now nearly reached 20,000 signatures, to add your name sign here.