London's Railway Arches Are Under Threat & Community Could Be The Thing That Saves Them

London’s beloved railway arches are home to many a quirky, sustainable business and offer a hub of community in their own right but now they’re all under threat as National Rail has stated that they’re selling the arches.

What was once a community of independent, local sellers could easily turn into a corporate fight of ownership as major companies such as Goldman Sachs and Terra Firma are already eyeing up these prospective buying opportunities.  

National Rail are basically that big, scary landlord that you fear keeping your deposit at the end of your lease but this time, their 350% increase in rent pricing is directly affecting the businesses in the arches as they could be kicked out. Literally. The rent increase throughout the years and the imminent selling of the arches by August this year are all signifiers of a publicly-owned National Rail that doesn’t value small, local businesses.

That’s where the Guardians of the Arches movement comes into play. The cause encourages people to donate to the campaign, sign a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport whilst also educating people about the unfortunate selling of the railway arches. In the age of social media, this isn’t really a hard ask so use the hashtag #SaveOurArches to spread the word.

We took a trip to E5 Bakehouse recently and apart from indulging in their fantastic vanilla financiers and coffee from their partner roasthouse, we also got chatting to the people behind the baking magic. They revealed fears that ever since the announcement of the sale of the arches, there’s been an impending sense of doom as businesses have been leaving the area for years – but now’s the final straw.

We got talking to Jack, the floor manager of E5 Bakehouse and it seems as if they’re somewhat okay, for now. With a fixed lease, a business can stay there for a period of time but it doesn’t quell the worries amongst the community. Local, independent businesses are now facing the prospect of moving or dismantling altogether and it’s yet another blow to the way that independent brands and businesses work in London.

Jack described “Community [as] much more valuable than the short-term” he highlights a crucial point. Having local businesses such as E5 Bakehouse creates a multitude of local jobs, a sense of community, a hub for local events and activities – and this was demonstrated by a charming school trip that was learning how to bake bread when we were there. In the short-term, of course there will be a financial gain from the sale of the railway arches but what about the long-term? A long-term business is “constantly flourishing”, as Jack put it and allows room for growth, creativity and a real sense of community.

E5 Bakehouse is doing well as a business but this is all relative if the space in which they operate, like the other businesses in the arches, is sold onto others. It’s not a predicament that any business wants to be in but this is the reality that garage owners, bakers, brewers and other small businesses are finding themselves in at the moment. This isn’t just a London centric problem either, this is a nationwide situation.

Even in the midst of such bad news, local businesses are still rallying together for the greater good and trying to get donations and so, if you’re as outraged by the treatment of local businesses as us then please do visit the website and see how you can help. Even if it’s just spreading the word via friends, sending the petition to others on social media – it all has a positive effect for this small (but mighty) movement.

Carry on the conversation on our social media platforms and of course, hashtag #SaveOurArches to get involved.