Traders fighting to save their businesses in Brixton’s railway arches are appealing to supporters to object to Network Rail’s planning application which would allow the company to make the changes it wants.
You can comment on the application online. Your comments can only be taken into account if they address certain issues. See end of post for a list.
The application to Lambeth council has not been approved, yet Network Rail has already given its smaller tenants until August to get out.
The traders expressed frustration at the lack of information and written agreements, fearing that Network Rail could easily go back on a promise to let them return – but with higher rents.
“There is only one legal document that we have received from Network Rail,” said Malek Menad, director at Denmay Fabrics. “There’s no documents about our new lease, as they promised us.”
H&T Pawnbrokers are not included in the eviction, but declined to comment further. It is thought that betting shop William Hill are also not included.
This exception sparked outrage among other traders.
Ray Murphy, owner of Budget Carpets, expressed incredulity at the news: “The most morally decrepit businesses, the ones that leech off the poor, are the ones that are staying in the Railway Arches?”
“It’s all about the money,” he said.
Traders are now considering their next moves and will meet next week to discuss their campaign which has seen Network Rail change its original approach, with an apparent “consultation” and promises that the traders will be able to return.
But the uncertainty its plans have generated have already been a factor in the closure of A&C Deli, a long-time Brixton institution, whose shop is now used by the Brixton Pound.
Fishmongers L.S. Mash and Sons have also said that they will have to close if they are evicted, owing to the cost of equipping a new shop.
Some traders, like the Moroccan Cafe and the Brixton Pound, are mobile enough to not depend on their shops, and plan to return once the refurbishment is complete.
Tom Shakhli, general manager at the Brixton Pound, said: “We’ve existed without a shop for years.”
But he added: “We’ve been able to play a very social role in an otherwise commercial area. We want that to continue but it’s going to be difficult to get somewhere that allows us the same visibility.”
He hoped the landlords would preserve the arches as a space benefitting Brixton socially as well as commercially: “I’m adamant that this street should not just be sold to the highest bidder.”
Murphy urged supporters of the traders to publicise the latest move by Network Rail to force the company to act responsibly towards its small tenants and Brixton itself.
Calling the eviction “economic and social cleansing”, he added that the disappearance of the Arches’ tenants could harm Brixton’s appeal to newcomers.
“If you take the heart out of a body then it’s dead isn’t it? They moved here knowing what was there.”
Menad, who moved to Brixton from Algeria 30 years ago, said: “If you remove me from Brixton, I’ll be a foreigner again.”
How to object …
To be valid and to be considered by the council’s planning department, objections must be written in a certain way and address specific issues.
Do not include any signatures or personal telephone numbers/email addresses. If they are included. they will removed for information security purposes.
Inappropriate or defamatory comments are likely to be removed.
How to make an informed comment
View the plans before you comment.
Keep your comments relevant.
Only comments relating to planning issues can be taken into account.
Matters which ARE relevant include:
Impact on local area
Highway matters, traffic access visibility and parking
Removes an eyesore
Is the application contrary to or following the Local plan or other government policies?
Loss of light
Improves/degrades tourist facilities
Noise created once the development is complete
In keeping/not in keeping with local area
Effect on trees and wildlife
Matters which are NOT relevant include:
Effect on property value or property maintenance
Loss of view
Morals and motives.