The railway arches in Brixton have long been a place where businesses can set up with reasonably affordable rents and benefit from being in a vibrant town centre. The Brixton arches are relatively unusual in that along Atlantic Road, Brixton Station Road and Popes Road, the arches face on to busy streets. Many of the businesses which occupy the arches have become local institutions - it is hard to imagine Brixton without the A & C Continental Deli, Mash's fishmonger, S & S Textiles, M & M Foods, the Catwalk wig shop and many other businesses which are as much a part of Brixton's identity and community as Electric Avenue, Windrush Square, Morleys and the markets.
It is therefore really disappointing that Network Rail has announced its intention to serve notice on all of the businesses occupying railway arches in Brixton so that it can refurbish the arches and increase the rents. Commercial property values in Brixton have been increasing in recent years, and it is good to see investment and new start ups contributing to the vibrancy and diversity of the town centre. But we need to make sure that Brixton's character as a diverse, bustling town centre remains and businesses which have been here for many years and which serve their customers well are not priced out.
Network Rail is a public body not a private developer, and in refurbishing the arches it needs to pay better regard to the wider community of Brixton and the role that established businesses play within it. Network Rail should make a much stronger commitment to existing businesses in the Brixton arches, offering a right to return, a phased approach to the refurbishment, support for businesses while the works are undertaken and a reasonable approach to rent increases - they shouldn't simply be cashing in.
See my interview on the arches with Brixton Blog here: http://www.brixtonblog.com/save-our-shops-helen-hayes-says-network-rail-has-behaved-in-the-worst-way-possible/27986