‘Talk to us’ plead Hackney’s Well Street campaigners as rents meeting cancelled

Church charity ‘showing no love’ over rents rise, traders say

Traders and residents in a Hackney market street have begged their church-based landlord to reconsider ‘rocketing rents’ after talks between the groups broke down.

Hopes of a settlement between ‘Save Well Street’ campaigners and the St John Hackney Joint Estates Charity were dashed this week after the landlord pulled out of a meeting set up by the Bishop of Willesden.

Shopkeepers are fighting a 200 per cent hike in rents along with repair bills of more than �40,000. They say they are being forced out to make way for ‘gentrification’ - and want the ‘rocketing rents’ to be introduced gradually.

Residents meanwhile are unhappy about noise and nuisance caused by squatters, who are living in empty flats and shops that have not been let.

But now St John Hackney Joint Estates Charity, which was set up nearly 400 years ago to protect East London’s poor, has cancelled talks and is taking legal action to evict five tenants.

Joanne Price, co-chair of Well Street Traders and Residents Association (WESTRA) said: “We’ve had enough of this charity’s arrogant refusal to talk to anyone, including bishops and MPs. Who do they think they are? So much for being a church charity – they have shown no love or care for either their tenants, residents or this market street, which is more than 150 years old.”

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More than five thousand people have signed a petition in support of the 25 independent businesses.

Hackney councillor Ian Rathbone, secretary of WESTRA, said: “I am sorry we have reached such a pitch. I had hoped the intervention of the church would bring the trust to their senses.”

Keith Wallace, chief executive of the charity, said tenants had failed to respond to managing agents’ letters.

“It is completely self-inflicted I’m afraid,” he said.

“It would be quite wrong to hold a meeting with them while there are legal cases underway.

“I doubt if the shopkeepers who are voicing dissent are charging their customers at 1990 prices.

“Prices have gone up and so shop rents have too.”