Guardians of the Arches: Hackney mayor calls for meeting with new owners to iron out ‘tenants first’ approach

The arches in London Fields. Picture: Polly Hancock

The arches in London Fields. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

Hackney mayor Phil Glanville has written to the prospective new owners of the Network Rail arches hoping to discuss their “tenants first” approach.

Mr Glanville has long campaigned on behalf of traders and backed the Guardian of the Arches trade group in its efforts to stop the sale this year.

He even expressed interest in the council buying Hackney’s arches, an idea suggested at a parliamentary meeting by Hackney South and Shoreditch MP Meg Hillier.

When the £1.46billion deal to buy all 4,455 arches was announced in last month, Network Rail detailed how both buyers – Telereal and Blackstone – would adopt a tenants first approach that would be cemented in a charter. It included a commitment to engage with all tenants and communities in an open and honest manner.

Now Mr Glanville has written to Telereal chair Graham Edwards and James Seppala of Blackstone requesting to meet them so he can learn more about the charter and tell them he wants it to be legally-binding.

He has requested the Guardians – formed in London Fields last year – also be in attendance.

He said: “For many of the long-established independent business which have made Hackney’s railway arches the vibrant and desirable places they are, many of the rent increases by Network Rail over recent years are simply unaffordable and have already forced some to close.

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“There is a now great deal of concern that, under new private ownership, rents could skyrocket further.

“‘Tenants first’ for Hackney Council means recognising the arches as a community asset full of vibrant and independent local businesses; understanding the need for balanced local economies with a variety of different business types; address the unaffordable rents already set by Network Rail and collaborate with tenants to ensure formal processes of negotiation are introduced before any further changes.”

Mr Glanville is also asking the Guardians of the Arches be recognised as a trade group and that a rent and lease audit is carried out.

Guardians founder Derec Hickman, of Chu’s Garage in Helmsley Place, said new owners would have “no interest at all in industry or supporting industry.”