Call for ‘living business rents’ to protect small firms in East London

17th July 2017

Affordable business rents should be used in the war to stop small firms being pushed out of East London by large companies, campaigners say..

The revolutionary idea has been put forward by the East End Trades Guild in its Bastille Day commemoration to mark a year of successful government lobbying for capping business rates.

Many of the guild’s 200 members in Spitalfields and Shoreditch face crippling rent rises caused by property demand by large City corporate entities.

“The Mayor of London has brought in a ‘Living Rent’ following the Living Wage—we want something similar on commercial rents,” the guild’s founding organiser Krissie Nicolson told the East London Advertiser.

“Evidence-based affordable London commercial rent can be used in new developments with progressive landlords, in local plans and in the London Plan.”

The idea emerged at Friday’s Bastille Day celebration staged by the guild at Shoreditch Church.

“The East End has strong links to France right back to the 20,000 Huguenot refugees in the 17th century,” Krissie explained.

“Like Bastille Day, the East End has always been a place that stirs people to action and social reform.

“We got 11,000 names to our Downing Street petition before the budget which played a critical role in the growing uproar up and down the country about unfair rents and rates.”

The mayors of Tower Hamlets and neighbouring Hackney both backed the fight against exorbitant commercial rents and business rates.

Tower Hamlets has agreed to fund the guild’s research with the New Economics Foundation into the feasibility of a living commercial rent.

The two mayors want to make sure the Bishopsgate and Hackney Wick developments ‘lock in’ affordable business space.

Hackney’s Phillip Granville told the meeting: “Small businesses play a crucial role in east London that’s fundamental to our high streets and town centres, places to create aspiration and jobs in our community.”

The Federation of Small Businesses’ London policy chairman Sue Terpilowski has run her own PR and marketing consultancy for 29 years — but is now being forced out by rising rents, initially from Old Street ‘Tech City’ having relocated to cheaper premises at Canary Wharf’s South Quay, but now facing having to move again.

She said: “Small businesses are being forced out by new high-rise buildings with ridiculous rents. We’ve just been given notice to quit South Quay because it’s being turned into flats.”

Small businesses are suddenly finding rents doubling and trebling, Spitalfields Planning Forum has found, which would hit jobs.

It fears encroaching ‘corporates’ spell death to a community – but believes “East Enders have a habit of biting back”.