The railway arches in London Fields are filled with thriving businesses, but a problem looms. The arches are owned by Network Rail, which has sent out letters to businesses informing them of upcoming rent hikes.
The area has become much trendier in recent years, so the rent hikes come as little surprise. What is shocking though, is the size of the increase. Network Rail has put the rents up by 200%.
The area is home to a diverse group of businesses: cafes, breweries and industrial firms. Chu's Garage tried to bargain with Network Rail, offering a 20% increase on the rent they're already paying, but they were swiftly rebuffed with the threat of arbitration.
Now the traders are banding together to see what can be done to combat Network Rail and find a solution to save their businesses. London Fields Brewery owner Hugo Ramos told Hackney Gazette that if these businesses leave:
The soul [of the area] will be gone.
Some of these businesses have been about since London Fields was one of the city's most unfashionable areas, a hub for vice, prostitution and drugs. It was these businesses who transformed the area into what it's become today, and unsurprisingly they feel they are victims of their own success.
A Network Rail spokesperson responded to the Hackney Gazette over widespread criticism of its actions. She said negotiations with tenants were ongoing and "amicable", and also posited the fact that all money generated by Network Rail is reinvested back into the railways. Finally she said:
We aim to deliver value in the communities in which we operate, supporting a growing economy with businesses and jobs.
Network Rail's actions suggest otherwise.