Residents petition over sudden closure by council of community laundrette

Residents supporting the Boundary Estate Community Laundrette. Pic: Jonathan Moberly 

The sudden closure of a community laundrette between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green has prompted locals in Tower Hamlets to set up a petition calling for the closure to be reviewed

The Boundary Estate Community Laundrette is a residents-led project run by volunteers to help local people. From there, it became a much-loved community hub for the area.  

However, on the morning of February 9, volunteers arrived at the laundrette to find the locks had been changed by Tower Hamlets Council without warning, according to Jonathan Moberly, vice chair of the Boundary Tenants and Residents Association. There is a disagreement between the council and residents about the circumstances which led to the closure taking place and over the terms of a new lease.  

The council claims people were given six months warning about the closure in a Section 25 notice in July 2023,  The laundrette say the day of the closure was the first they had sight of the section 25 notice issued. 

A Tower Hamlets council spokesman said: “We contacted the tenants of the launderette back in July 2023 to formally start the lease renewal process and asked them to begin negotiations with us. This process is set out in law and as part of that we have to include proposed new lease terms, which include a rental rate as a basis for discussion. 

“As with all our lease renewals, we are seeking to balance our obligation to get the best value for Tower Hamlets’ residents with a desire to make rents sustainable for businesses. All the rental proposals are based on market evidence, generally from the immediate vicinity. 

“We have not had any contact from the tenants since issuing the notice and strongly encourage them to contact us so we can begin a discussion.” 

Moberly told Eastlondonlines that “this is inaccurate.” They have had contact with the council in many different ways since the locks had been changed, but this has “not been acknowledged in writing.” 

Tabitha Morton, voluntary director at the Boundary Estate Community Laundrette, said in a statement: “They’ve replied to none of my emails and have never returned any of my phone calls.” 

Moberly also said: “On Friday February 16, we had a well-attended and very energised emergency community meeting for affected residents and launderette users.” 

A petition has since been set up to save the laundrette, urging locals to sign in order to claim back the laundrette that had been a vital part of the community for over thirty years. 

They aim to reach 2,000 signatures on the petition by mid-next week in order to trigger a thirty-minute debate in the council chamber at the monthly council meeting later in March.

Petition poster with QR code link to petition posted around the Shoreditch area. Pic: Jonathan Moberly. 

Boundary Laundrette have had residents write to them via email, WhatsApp and notice board comments saying they are “absolutely devastated” to hear of the closure, as the unexpected seizure of the laundrette has caused the local community a lot of “pain, stress and anxiety”. 

One resident wrote: “The laundrette is a significant part of our community which provides not just a service, but an important connection between residents of the estate.” 

While another resident, Ken Sequin, wrote: “Dreadful news! I use the launderette for all my laundry, at 82, it takes a load of me. I urge the council to reconsider.” 

Ken Sequin, local resident and artist who relies on the laundrette made the banner ‘SAVE OUR LAUNDRETTE’. Pic: Jonathan Moberly. 

The laundrette that has been running since 1992 and is not only seen as a communal facility to help locals with their laundry load, which can cause damp and mould to build up in their homes, but it also doubles up as a vital third space for the community to get together. Lonely or senior locals who feel isolated can chat over a cup of tea while they wait for their laundry. 

Boundary Laundrette said the council is asking for an annual rent of £10,000 with one years rent up front, an increase of six-fold from the previous lease issued in 2010.  The laundrette is part of a parade of shops in Calvert Avenue, where rents that are received as part of the leases are used to support the council’s housing service.  

Tower Hamlets spokesman said: “The rent for the laundrette was at a historic low level and based on a lease granted back in 2010.”  They have also said they are willing to grant a new lease to the original laundrette tenants on “terms to be agreed.” 

Moberly advised that he attended a Tenants and Residents Association meeting on February 19, in which officers from the Housing Asset management side of the council had “agreed that the money gained by £10,000 additional rent was insignificant when weighted against the cost to the council of increased mould and damp issues inside the flats on the Boundary Estate.” 

Moberly also said: “It is clear that their only motivation is to get the laundrette out and get in a high street fashion shop.” 

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