Chester Market traders face huge rent hike for Northgate scheme move

Reporter:

Steve Creswell

STALL-HOLDERS at Chester Market are being asked to pay almost triple their current rent for a place in the new Northgate scheme market.

Butcher David Joinson, who has traded at the Princess Street site for 29 years, told the Standard his annual bill was set to rise from £7,635 to a staggering £19,791.

And fellow butcher Mark Johns revealed he is being asked to shell out £30,800 – about £12,000 more than he pays now.

Both have accused Cheshire West and Chester Council of riding roughshod over people's livelihoods.

The new market will be housed beneath a cinema in a new building behind the former library on Northgate Street, where a number of cafes and restaurants are planned. It is due to open in 2019.

Mr Johns, who is chair of the market traders group, said he had spoken to many stall-holders and their emotion had changed from one of anger to despair.

“This is making people ill,” he said. “People are starting to feel sick with the worry and stress. The anger is turning into depression.

“We have all worked really hard to build our businesses and they are destroying it."

Mr Joinson said he had been left fuming following a heated meeting with a council representative who reportedly said there was no room for negotiation on rent costs.

The council had claimed the new price was in line with other markets in the region and the old and new markets in Chester could not be compared like-for-like.

Mr Joinson's company, David Joinson Quality Meats, employs 14 members of staff, including his two sons, Jamie and Adam.

“These are people's lives that they're messing with here,” he said. “I've got a duty to look after my staff. With that rent I'd have to double my turnover at least.”

The company recently bought a second shop, Philip Salt and Co, on Christleton Road, which has an annual rent of £10,800.

“This is a high street shop so how can the council justify £20,000 for a market stall?” Mr Joinson said. “It's insulting.”

Mr Johns said he would have to “consider his position” if the council refused to budge on the rent hike.

Traders have until December 15 to sign a five-year contract, but council correspondence states that they will be able to back out up to six months before the opening of the new market in 2019.

The £300 million Northgate retail and leisure complex is scheduled to be constructed in phases with the market due for completion more than a year before the overall scheme.

Mr Joinson argued that this means he and other market traders would be operating next to a building site, which would be unlikely to draw in the required number of customers.

Many stall-holders have criticised the council for failing to support them following the relocation of the bus interchange from Princess Street – outside the current market – to Gorse Stacks on the other side of the city centre.

Some said takings were down 80 per cent with the loss of business from bus users.

Traders were also left fuming in July when the council allowed a pop-up continental market to set up in Town Hall Square selling similar products.

CWaC has defended the planned rent hikes.

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “Most Chester Market traders have now had one-to-one meetings with the council to discuss their requirements for a future stall in the new market planned for Chester Northgate. 

“Chester Market rents haven’t increased for a number of years and as the new market opens they will be adjusted to be comparable to the costs of the other markets across the borough. For most of the traders, rents will be on average £23 per day for a 10sq metres stall or an average £142 per week. This rent will still be less than the national average.

“Traders have discussed new stall allocations, some are asking for larger spaces than they have at present and some are asking for less. The new rent will also reflect the new spacious and convenient building within a prime shopping location.

“Traders will have time to consider the increased rents though as they won’t start until the new market opens, following which traders will then continue with their existing rents for a further six months.

“Many traders with protected leases will also be offered compensation for the surrender of their existing leases once the old market closes. Payments will be based on the time a trader has held the lease but as an example, a trader with a protected lease held for over 14 years and a stall rateable value of £4000 will get a payment of £8,000 if they don’t wish to move to the new market. The same trader moving into the new market would receive an enhanced payment of £12,000 offset against future rent.

“New documents will be supplied in the new year; a new draft lease, agreement to lease and an agreement to surrender the existing lease. Any decisions taken can also be changed; traders will be able to change their minds about moving into the new market six months before the new building opens.

“Chester Market is still open and trading as normal with new stalls opening and will continue to do so until the day it moves to its new premises in possibly two years.”

Email:

steve.creswell@nwn.co.uk

See full story in the Chester Leader

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