Rents scrapped for thousands of railway arch traders hit hard by coronavirus

The Ponsford Street arches. Five are vacant, and two have 'to let' signs on them. Picture: Sam Gelde

The Ponsford Street arches. Five are vacant, and two have 'to let' signs on them. Picture: Sam Gelder - Credit: Archant

Thousands of railway arch traders hit hard by coronavirus are celebrating after their landlord backed down and cancelled their rent for three months.

The Arch Company, which bought 4,455 arches from Network Rail in a £1.46bn deal 18 months ago, announced a week ago it was launching a Coronavirus Support Unit, allowing its tenants to defer rent for up to three months and offering help with access the government’s relief packages.

But after trade group the Guardians of the Arches (GOTA) warned a deferral would see “thousands” of firms go under, the landlord has now scrapped rent for three months for the worst hit small and medium enterprises (SMEs). A £10million hardship fund announced on Wednesday will be used to cover the rent.

The move brings the support closer to that of TfL and Network Rail, which have both cancelled tenants’ rents across the board for three months.

GOTA managing director Leni Jones said: “We’re delighted to see the Arch Company recognise how serious the situation is for their tenants. A rent-free period will go a long way to putting tenants’ minds at ease at this time of crisis.

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“The details of how tenants can access the fund remain to be seen and it will be important not to place further strains on businesses already at the edge.”

The Arch Company managing director Adam Dakin said: “We have been closely assessing the situation, which is changing day by day, to ensure help is most effectively targeted to businesses that need it most. And we have listened to our tenants through hundreds of individual phone calls with them.

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“The diverse mix of independent businesses that make up the arches have a special place in each local community, and it would be tragic to lose that because of the economic crisis created by Coronavirus. We want to help ensure that the dynamic SMEs that are the heart of the arches are still there at the end of the crisis.”

Tenants can access the support through the Coronavirus Support Unit.

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