Jack Hopkins, Cabinet member for jobs and growth, has written a blog on the Future Brixton website about Network Rail’s plans to evict shops from the arches on Atlantic Road and Brixton Station Road.
The plans undermine the council’s proposals for the Future Brixton programme which is currently undergoing consultation with the local community. However the council has stepped back from pressurising Network Rail to halt their plans, with Hopkins instead stating that they have “little direct power over what is fundamentally a matter between landlord and tenants.” He focuses on how the council can help improve the support package offered by Network Rail rather than change the plans altogether.
Here’s what Jack Hopkins has said and you can read it in full at http://futurebrixton.org/brixtoncentral/cllr-jack-hopkins-on-supporting-brixton-station-road/
Over the last few days I’ve been meeting the businesses in the Brixton arches. There was understandably lots of concern and anger about an uncertain future which is why I wanted to reassure tenants that the Council will work with them and Network Rail over the coming months.
Local businesses are absolutely vital to Lambeth, economically, socially and culturally. They are the heart of our town centres and represent the diversity, creativity and ambition of our borough. Many of the businesses I met have been through the tough times and have been a driver of improvement themselves, acting an integral part of the community here in Brixton. Some serve people who mainstream chains and retailers ignore. Others have built up loyal customer bases over decades and want to remain. Their individual concerns and their place in Brixton needs to be understood by Network Rail and I am pressing them to understand that their tenants have more value than simply the rent they can pay.
To that end I will be hosting a meeting with the affected businesses, the Brixton Business Improvement District and Network Rail to try and work through many of the issues which were raised and I will continue to push Network Rail to be a good landlord.
Many wanted the 1st right to return, understanding that the rent levels have been historically low but willing to pay a higher amount. Everyone wanted clarity on the timing and phasing of the work, especially those whose business plans demand they order future stock right now. Most wanted a clearer understanding of the support package that was on offer so that they can continue to trade whilst refurbishment takes place. Some simply wanted compensation to permanently relocate elsewhere and others said that their business could still work if they were relocated to other arches further down Brixton Station Road. I hope the offer from Network Rail will be clear and fair and they work to understand the needs of individual tenants.
It is important to stress that while the council has influence, it has little direct power over what is fundamentally a matter between landlord and tenants but I am confident that by working together we can get a positive deal for Brixton and its businesses. As Brixton continues to get better the Council and the business community is working to ensure that development opens opportunities for local start ups and local businesses, not seeing the character ebb away. Local people through the Future Brixton masterplan have said they want to keep the mix of big chains like M&S, H&M and TKMax as well as independent businesses. We are listening and will always act in line with our manifesto commitment, “Ambitious for everyone, Fairness for All.”
In the meantime I will continue to support the businesses and update the community on progress.
Sign the petition to halt the evictions at https://www.change.org/p/network-rail-halt-the-evictions-of-brixton-s-beloved-businesses-from-its-railway-arches?just_created=true and join in the debates at http://www.urban75.net/forums/threads/out-with-the-old-network-rail-tell-businesses-to-vacate-atlantic-road-arches.331912/