Bookshop driven out by rent rises… and roundabout din
Old Street work ‘unbearable’, says owner
14 June, 2019 — By Calum Fraser
Owner Jason Burley: ‘It is really unsustainable’
THE owner of an independent bookshop that is to close after almost 20 years has criticised rising rates and Transport for London for creating an “unbearable” working environment.
Camden Lock Books has served customers at Old Street station since 2001 but, with relentless rent and rates hikes and disruption caused by the redevelopment of the roundabout, it is due to close next month.
This is the second business to shut as a result of the redevelopment, after the Magic Roundabout nightclub closed its doors in December last year.
Owner Jason Burley said: “The situation has been that TfL have not given me a lease for about four years. I am on a rolling monthly system.
“It is really unsustainable. There is also some works going on and I have reason to believe they were going to ask me to leave after or during the work.”
He added: “I don’t want to be here when they’re drilling the concrete off the roof. They did some test drills. The reverberation of noise is such that everybody immediately left the shop and I wanted to leave as well. It is unbearable.”
The dramatic redesign of the 1960s junction will close the north-west arm of the roundabout and create segregated cycle lanes.
During the redevelopment, three of the subway entrances to Old Street station will be closed and replaced with a new main entrance.
Vision for the new Old Street roundabout
Mr Burley took over the shop from a diplomat in Camden in 1984 before moving it to its 21st-century Old Street home.
The 59-year-old has seen his rents and rates bill steadily increase over the past 35 years in business.
Campaigners have argued that the current rates formula favours companies like Amazon, which enjoy low rent and cheap rates by siting its warehouses away from high streets.
Mr Burley said: “You become a victim of gentrification as a bookshop. The rents and rates go up and you can’t get the price of books up.
“That’s the life of a bookshop. You put a lot of work in and your returns diminish dramatically.”
But despite the difficulties, Mr Burley, who co-owns Burley Fisher Books in Hackney, remains optimistic.
“The book trade used to be a kind of secret society, only available to male, white, middle-class, elderly customers,” he said. “That has been shaken up. Now there are more books for different genders, race and sexuality. And we use our space to open it up to events and talks.”
A TfL spokesman said: “We have met with and held drop-in sessions for tenants in the subways to keep them informed of upcoming construction works, and to get feedback. We will continue to do so throughout the works.
“We would encourage tenants and residents to attend these meetings and voice any concerns they may have.”