TfL: Hackney garage under threat of eviction from Transport for London land

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Len Maloney runs JC Motors, whose landlord is TfL’s TTL Properties.

A motor repairs expert who has mentored young entrepreneurs is appealing for help to avoid eviction from his workshop in a railway arch after a rent hike.

Len Maloney, who runs JC Motors in an arch near Haggerston station, said he is facing a £70,000 bill. He said the rent more than tripled from £22,000 in 2018 and feared small businesses are being priced out of communities.

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Transport for London’s (TfL) property company TTL Properties said it might consider enforcement action if it heard nothing by a June 9 deadline.

The pandemic hit traders hard, Mr Maloney said, even with a rent break. TfL said it gave the firm £45,000 rent support.

He has taken his campaign to London mayor Sadiq Khan, calling on more time to pay and for a rethink over the price of rents in railway arches to help support local businesses. He also wants a realistic payment plan to help deal with arrears. His current lease started in 2016 and is due to expire in August.

Mr Maloney was one of the founders of Guardians of the Arches, which brings small busineses together and is a member of the East End Trades Guild which is backing his campaign to stay.

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He told the Labour politician that they met at a Mayor’s Question Time just before the pandemic and discussed the problem of affordable rent.

In his open letter to the mayor, he said: “You agreed that the issue of affordable rent is one of the biggest issues facing small businesses in London. I remember that day and the feeling of hope that I had from your response so I am called to write to you now to ask for your support. TfL is demanding that I pay £70,000 in rent arrears because they tripled my rent in 2018. If I do not pay this amount in total, TfL expects me to vacate my arch and leave Hackney.”

Len Maloney. (Photo by Sarah Ainslie For Spitalfields Life)Len Maloney. (Photo by Sarah Ainslie For Spitalfields Life)
Len Maloney. (Photo by Sarah Ainslie For Spitalfields Life) | Sarah Ainslie For Spitalfields Life - permission via LDRS

He added: “I have been providing work opportunities and apprenticeships to young people from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds since 2006. Often these young people were losing their way before they found my business. They were misunderstood at school and needed a mentor to support them.”

Mr Maloney said he was given his chance when he walked into the motor business and was taken under the wing of then-owner Joe Chee.

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In his turn he said he tries to support those in need of a start and is involved with the guild’s cultural group which helps businesses get access to space in London, including thes market on the first Sunday of the month in Mare Street. He encourages people to go to college and employs an apprentice at the garage, alongside a mechanic.

“I just imagine myself walking along many years ago wondering what I am going to do with my life,” he said. “For someone to walk in and to help out is very powerful.”

Hackney Council staff have sat in on his meetings with TfL as he tries to hammer out a deal for paying the rent. He said he has been working on an affordable payment plan.

His case has also been taken up by London Assembly chair Andrew Boff who served as a Conservative councillor in Queensbridge ward.

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Mr Maloney said he fears other businesses could be in the same boat and explained that some arches in Hackney were empty for more than three years.

More than 900 people signed a petition he ran in 2015 calling for more affordable rents. He said: “Seven years later there is still no affordable rent policy in place from TfL and we are right back where we started. ”

Mr Maloney asked the mayor to look again at the rents. He wrote: “The way people in Hackney are suffering is wrong. All of my neighbours say they are struggling to pay the rent that TfL is asking for now. How can TfL justify its policy to maximise profits at the cost of damaging small businesses, their families and their communities?”

Dan Lovett, the director of asset management for TfL’s TTL Properties, said: “We always work with our tenants to help support their businesses however we can. Throughout the pandemic, we provided rent credit to our tenants, including JC Motors, so they could manage the impact on their businesses.”

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He added: “We have been trying to work with JC Motors for more than a year to find a solution to the increasing rent arrears, but all our offers of assistance, such as payment plans and alternative locations with lower rents, have not been accepted.

“Given this, and with growing arrears as a result of continuing failure to pay the rent, we have asked JC Motors to confirm whether the significant outstanding debt can be paid off or whether instead the business is willing to move to a more affordable property elsewhere on TfL’s estate.”

The company extended the deadline for JC Motors to respond until June 9 and it will consider its next steps, including possible enforcement notice if it does not hear back.

A TfL spokesman said: “Any decision about enforcement action will be taken carefully and after further consultation with JC Motors about its financial position.”

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