Businesses based in railway arches in Leeds could be facing an uncertain future because of a planned sale of their premises.
An economic think-tank found that businesses based in arches across the country contribute £725m a year to the economy.
Research was carried out by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) as Network Rail prepares to sell an estate of railway arches for up to £1.5bn.
The NEF said businesses could be at risk and some had been hit with rent increases. NEF researcher Sarah Arnold said: “Every day we speak to small business owners who have had to shut down or relocate because of massive in-year rent increases, often leaving arches vacant for years.”
Leeds businesses are among firms which launched the Guardians of the Arches campaign, which is being supported by the NEF and the East End Trades Guild.
Krissie Nicolson, Director of the Guild, which represents small businesses, said: “Many of our members are being displaced further and further out of London due to a lack of affordable workspace.
“We can see this trend now in Manchester, Leeds and all major cities across the UK.”
David Biggs, managing director of Network Rail Property, said: “All lease arrangements will transfer to the new owner and all arrangements and protections will stay in place.
“We believe a new owner will bring more investment to the commercial estate, benefiting tenants and local communities, and creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.
“The sale is completely unconnected with periodic rent reviews which are part of our normal business activity.”