The campaign to stop Network Rail shabbily selling off 5,500 railway arches for a short-term cash injection is gathering pace.
These spaces have offered affordable premises to entrepreneurs and small businesses for several generations. They are unconventional sites, which have allowed communities to flourish. The hike in rents that will follow the sell-off will kill off many of these vital spaces. Here is just one story of a business worth fighting for.
My name is Katie Cullen and I own Block & Bottle – the UKs first combined butchers and craft beer shop located in a railway arch in Gateshead in the North East. We opened in April 2017 and have been there just over a year. As a small business we provide so many functions within our community that go beyond providing people with meat and beer.
Firstly, we have grown from enthusiasts to employers – a year ago there were only two of us employed by the business. Within our first 6 months we hired someone part-time and 6 months later they are now full-time and we are about to look for our next employee. The reasonable rents in the arches have allowed us to expand and just after a year of opening we have started a second small business which we have plans to be an industry leader in the UK and employ many more people over the next 5-10 years. This would not be possible without the reasonable rents provided by Network Rail.
Second within the community we provide a creative and social hub with the businesses around us – the high street is dead, it’s boring and homogenous – railway arches have reinvented the high street – they have built hot spots of creation and collaboration all over the UK, but they are delicate and need nurturing.
We support each other and don’t push each other out – we buy local and support other UK businesses that make a change on the ground and move industries forward. Many independent businesses use other local suppliers and with Brexit looming we need to support each other and use as many local businesses as possible.