Guardians of the Arches: New owners fail to endear themselves with ‘PR stunt’

Arches traders outside Parliament after a meeting with MPs last year.

Arches traders outside Parliament after a meeting with MPs last year. - Credit: Archant

Traders in railway arches across the UK have dismissed their new landlords’ offer to hear them out as a “PR stunt”.

The Guardians of the Arches, formed in London Fields two years ago, had tried to stop Network Rail’s mass sell-off of the properties last year but the £1.46billion deal was announced in September.

The Arch Company, a joint venture between US private equity group Blackstone and property investor Telereal Trillium, bought all 4,455 arches and promised to adopt a “tenants first” approach.

It has now laid out its plans to bring hundreds of disused arches back into use and launch a consultation with tenants to hear their concerns. The survey will help shape an “entrenched” tenants charter, as called for by Hackney mayor Phil Glanville and others.

There is, however, no promise to address the rent hikes imposed by Network Rail ahead of the sale, as called for by campaigners and politicians.

A spokesperson for Guardians of the Arches said: “Tenants don’t need this kind of public relations exercise to make their views known. They are already making themselves heard, loud and clear. We don’t want warm words or nice promises. We don’t want surveys or consultations. We want answers.

“As we’ve said repeatedly, we want answers and legally binding reassurances on affordability of rent, length of lease terms, mix of usage and gentrification.

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“If our new landlord wishes to build a relationship with tenants, they need to start by being honest and open with their intentions, bin the phoney consultation exercises and sit down with us to talk seriously about the future.”

Arch Company director Adam Dakin said: “We want to get our new relationship with tenants off to the best possible start by listening to their views. The estate is unique in its character and we are excited by the tremendous opportunity for us to contribute to its continued revitalisation, recognising the role our tenants play in stimulating economic activity at the heart of their local communities.

“We strongly believe supporting successful small businesses and ensuring they flourish over the long term will be crucial to our success. As Britain’s largest small business landlord, we are eager to create an environment in which our tenants thrive.”