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The ‘Save Well Street’ petition has been signed by around 5,000 local residents concerned about the effect such high rent rises from £6000 to £18000 a year charged by the landlord St John Hackney Joint Charities Trust is having on the market street. with shops closing down.

“The petition shows the strength of feeling of local people, as they see shops owned by this landlord closing down, and the threat to the survival of the remaining shops. It also shows just how many customers there could be for the street if we had a full market in operation,” said Ian Rathbone, Secretary of Well Street Traders and Residents Association (WESTRA).

“I hope the strength of feeling expressed through the petition will persuade the Charity of the need to meet with the shopkeepers to discuss the problems and huge rent hike, and see in what way we can fill the shops already left empty by the Charity – and help keep the remaining shops.”

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For further information, please contact Ian Rathbone on 07890 654 068 or ian.rathbone@tiscali.co.uk

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Press Release

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5 March 2011

Landlord owning half of shops in Well Street market E9 criticised for too high rents

Hackney’s MP, the Bishop of London and more than 5,000 Hackney residents are objecting to the treatment of 25 independent shopkeepers in the borough, whose livelihoods are being destroyed by their money-grabbing landlords, a charity set up nearly 400 years ago to protect the poor and needy in East London.

Independent shopkeepers on Well Street, Homerton E9, famous locally as being the London market street where Tesco founder Jack Cohen set up his first stall, feel they have no choice but to close in the face of 200% rental increases and repair bills of £40,000 being demanded by their landlord, the St John Hackney Joint Estates Charity.

Near the London Olympic site, the residents and shoppers of Well Street are not part of Hackney’s “gentrified” regeneration. Many shoppers walk to the street, and are elderly or unable to afford a car. Therefore, losing essential local services like the Post Office, which says it will close in face of the rent levy, will prove disastrous for local quality of life.

Three shopkeepers have already shut up shop for good, including discount shop This n’ That, ethnic greengrocer Beemen’s and local newsagent and sweet shop Prayosha News. With others which have been empty for years, the street is feeling the effects of blight from derelict and empty shops belonging to the charity.

Cllr Ian Rathbone, Secretary of WESTRA, said: “It is a shame that a charity which has given money ‘to the poor of Hackney’ in the past, has become so unforgiving when it comes to the treatment of its own poor tenants, forcing them to pay over the top rents to cover up their own mistakes as a landlord.

“Even more of a shame is that St John Hackney Trust has resolutely refused to speak to community representatives like myself about the matter, to enter mediation, to respond to letters sent to them concerning the anxieties of the shopkeepers, or to have any kind of decent and kind discussion about the future of one of London’s historic shopping streets and markets whose survival has been put under severe duress by their behaviour.

“This arrogant attitude contradicts the whole historic purpose of the various charities down the centuries which make up the current trust and I would urge the current trustees to review their position as trustees in the light of this. Their action in Well Street has been roundly condemned by more than 5,000 local people in a petition. They are holding back the development of the street and market.

“I am sorry we have reached such a pitch. I can only hope the intervention of the church will bring the Trust to their senses and a new way found to keep these shops alive in our market street, end the blight of the Trust’s many empty shops, and start a dialogue going with the local community which will be to the benefit of all.”

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