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Save JC Motors Of Haggerston

June 7, 2023
by the gentle author


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Leonard Maloney

Please support Leonard Maloney and his staff at JC Motors. Working from a railway arch in Haggerston, Len and his colleagues provide an invaluable and affordable service to drivers as well as offering training in skilled employment to dozens of young people. Thus JC Motors fulfils an important social function alongside a necessary service to customers, and Len has been recognised by local residents and celebrated the Mayor of Hackney for his important contribution to the community.

Yet Len’s business is under threat. In 2017, Transport for London who own the arches confronted Len with an annual rent increase from £22,000 to £72,000. Such an increase makes Len’s business unviable since he cannot increase charges to the customers to cover it or increase the volume of repairs in the space he has.

Since then – with the support of East End Trades Guild – Len has been trying to negotiate a sustainable rent but instead TfL have just been clocking up £70,000 of ‘arrears’ and now are threatening eviction if he does not pay by this Friday June 9th.

We urge readers sign this letter to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, asking him to intervene and save JC Motors.




“I’ve spent my whole working life here in the arches,” Len admitted to me, when Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I visited him. He spoke placidly, shook our hands in welcome and made relaxed eye contact when we arrived at his garage, and I was immediately aware how tidy and ordered the place was.

A peaceful atmosphere of mutual respect and concentration prevailed – a white camper van was up in the air undergoing maintenance beneath and the boot of a red sports car was open while repair was undertaken. Len & I sat on two car seats at the rear of the arch to chat while Sarah photographed the motor engineers at work.

JC Motors has been serving customers for more than decade at this location and earned a reputation in the neighbourhood for honest pricing and reliability, and many of his mechanics are local people who have joined through placements and schemes. Everything might appear as it should be, yet there is an air of poignancy since Len – in common with many other businesses under the railways arches – lives with uncertainty since all the arches were sold off.

“Everything is becoming coffee bars around here now,” Len informed me in regret, “and it seems our job has become seen as ‘dirty’ and we’re no longer wanted any more now that it’s become posh.”

“My dad had an old Austin Cambridge that he used to repair at weekends and that gave me a taste for this work. I’ve always loved taking things apart and putting them back together, and the smell of diesel oil has been attractive to me for as long as I can remember.

In 1981, I was sent on a day release from Danesford School to Hackney College where I met Barry Carlisle who specialised in repairing minis, and in the evenings I came to work for him in an arch here in Haggerston. Then Joe Chee came long and saw me working on a Volkswagen Camper van and he said, ‘If ever you need a job, come and see me.’

At first when I left school, I went to work for Barry but he had an accident and lost an eye, so then I had to go back to Joe Chee and we began working together in 1982. He was foreman at a Volkswagen garage in St John’s Wood. We made a great team and I learnt a lot from him. We started a body shop off the Kingsland Rd and a shop selling Volkswagen parts. That was fantastic and it carried on until 1999. He did the paperwork and sold the parts and I ran the bodyshop, and we collected lots of customers and took on three apprentices. But eventually Joe Chee got ill and passed away and I couldn’t run the whole business, so I closed the shop and continued with the garage.

I began taking on local young people through the Inspire Hackney scheme and now my son Miles is working with me. Everyone has their job to do and they know where the parts are and I have taught them what to do. Some customers bring their cars in and just tell me to repair whatever needs doing, but I also get single mums who don’t have a lot of money and I can just repair what is necessary to keep the car safe. I’ve had mums bring in their kids in prams and then the kids come back to me to ask advice when the time comes to get their first car.”

The team at J C Motors

Joe Chee is commemorated in the name of the company ‘JC Motors’, followed by Leonard’s initials

Miles Maloney

Len’s own beetle that he hopes to restore one day

Mr Bramble, Motor Engineer

Mr Singh, Motor Engineer

Hakeem Saunders – “I’ve been here since I was thirteen”

Adnan Leal

Leonard & his son Miles

Leonard Maloney

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

J C Motors LDM, 332 Stean St, Haggerston, E8 4ED

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16 Responses leave one →
  1. Laura Williamson permalink
    June 7, 2023

    Signed. Sending very best wishes to Leonard and all at JC Motors.

  2. Mary Laiuppa permalink
    June 7, 2023

    I’ve added my name but being in the U.S. not sure how important it will be.

    It is a tragedy that valuable businesses that are also supportive of youth and the community are being driven out of business.

    You know that is what is happening. TfL has their eye on the arches. They have a plan. Rather than just drive them all out they are out to maximize profits on the backs of these small businesses before they do. It is American Greed imported from the US. That cancer is what is driving English developers to destroy the heritage of so many buildings in London and beyond. And it is behind the tripling of rent. No one could see Covid coming but once it hit, this rate hike should have been abolished and reduced to it’s former rate. Not only that, but because of the service Mr. Mahoney provides both to drivers and to the youth of the area, he should either get a permanent rate freeze or be SUBSIDIZED by the city. There should be grants to cover his rent.

    Len’s poor VW bug. It’s the cobbler’s children who have no shoes. I hope he has the opportunity to get his bug restored before it is taken away from him.

    Shame on TfL. While I would hope Sadiq Khan could do something I doubt he will. Politicians are all hot air and no balloon. I saw on Len’s website they took petitions to No 10 Downing. That didn’t make any difference. I don’t think the Prince’s Trust would either as the Arches aren’t some significant historic building by some famous architect or resident and they don’t have gardens to tour.

    I am hoping an angel comes out of the woodwork and at least pays the arrears so that there is time for someone to make this right.

    I’m sure politicians beg for businesses to do exactly what Len is doing, provide jobs and skills to youth who can then become productive citizens and tax payers. But when it comes to actually doing something to support those that are doing the work, nothing.

    My best to Len and his crew.

  3. June 7, 2023

    A wonderful story with a sad undertone. This is the price that progress imposes on people — especially in a big city like London, which against all odds grows and grows…

    Since 19 May I have become the proud owner of a MINI ONE in British Racing Green. If I lived in Spitalfields, I would make JC Motors my garage.

    Please, Transport for London and Mayor Sadiq Khan: it’s in your hands and it would be easy for you to sustain the garage!

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Len and his people and wish them a bright future!

    Love & Peace

  4. June 7, 2023

    Usually, I read these posts and am left in a happily reflective state. Today, I’m pretty angry. Yet again, greedy landlords are pressing hardworking people to breaking point. What on Earth is TfL’s justification for the increase?

    I have an odd little sports car that will celebrate its 17th birthday this year. There is one mechanic I trust with it because he has the specialist expertise to maintain it. His business is similarly situated under a railway arch. I don’t know what I would do if the business disappeared.

    My heart goes out to Leonard and his colleagues, who must be under enormous pressure. I have signed the letter and will see what I can add to social media in support. Thank you for raising this GA.

  5. Annie S permalink
    June 7, 2023

    Signed, thank you for bringing this injustice our attention, I do so hope there will be a positive outcome!

  6. John Cunningham permalink
    June 7, 2023

    Appalling treatment of this vibrant and socially conscious business. It’s unbelievable that Transport for London, which is a public utility can engage in this gouging activity by asking 72000 per year for an arch under a railway viaduct. They are behaving like asset stripping private equity outfit. The London Mayor should be thoroughly ashamed of what his people are doing here.

  7. June 7, 2023

    Lens a legend of London
    We’ll fight for you !

  8. Camille Booth permalink
    June 7, 2023

    We all need you Len! This can’t happen ? Only just found out today. Is there any other way we can fight other than the petition?
    Camille & her dogs

  9. Cherub permalink
    June 7, 2023

    How on earth can a rent increase of 50k a year be justified, this is just like a criminal act. Even worse how can you do this to a small company that is providing a decent service, plus training and mentoring young people in the community?

    It is scandalous, TFL really are the pits and Mr Khan just doesn’t listen to the people of London he is there to represent. London needs a new broom, someone who will pay attention and seek solutions to its problems. I moved away 20 years ago and don’t think I’d want to live in London now. Husband is the same and he was born in Stratford and brought up in Newham.

  10. John Campbell permalink
    June 7, 2023

    Khan doesn’t care if people can afford to pay or not, look at his new ULEZ extension scheme, a moneymaking exercise hitting the poor who need to use their vehicles. Sonner he is out the better.

  11. Mark permalink
    June 10, 2023

    This is a shame khan should take a leaf out of lens book this man keeps kids off the street and trains them as mechanics we need more people like len stop putting profit over people’s lives khan you got got tfl into the state it is in so stop your bull boy tactics and by the way we do not need more over priced coffee shops gymes and bakeries so I say leave len along let him get on to his business

  12. Eileen Hughes permalink
    June 12, 2023

    Len needs to continue his business, the community all use his services

  13. Sonia Kaur permalink
    June 12, 2023

    Hi really wish you the best, this is very unfair and I hope and pray for the best for gou

  14. Rick Armiger RA permalink
    June 12, 2023

    ” In 2017, Transport for London who own the arches, confronted Len with an annual rent increase from £22,000 to £72,000. Such an increase makes Len’s business unviable since he cannot increase charges to the customers to cover it or increase the volume of repairs in the space he has.”

    This was the very same scenario for a pal of mine, who tried the ‘petition route’ of higher-ups too.

    But the Grenfell Fire, W11s 9/11, was the tipping point… Rotterdam became the safe and affordable new-base. A healing place, where the famous timber models of Westminster Abbey, designed and built for Queen Elizabeth II, kicked off – in the EU, rather than in Her own Borough.

    Not a lot of people know that…

  15. Linda mileham permalink
    June 23, 2023

    I have delivered to Len and all the garages above, such lovely people. The rent increase is unfair
    People in this trade are needed for the community and do a amazing trade.
    Please save Len and all.

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