A TRADER is having to close his stall at Chester Market after 18 years because the council is proposing to triple his rent.
James Law, of Chester Medals, currently pays around £4,000 a year but is being asked to fork out £12,700 if he wants a pitch at the new Northgate Scheme market when it opens in 2019.
All businesses must sign a new five-year contract with Cheshire West and Chester Council by December 15 this year, although they have the option to back out up to six months before the new market opens.
Most will receive compensation for the relocation – but Mr Law will not get a penny as he is one of a handful on a rolling rather than fixed contract and therefore does not qualify.
He told the Leader: “It’s a joke how much they’re asking us to pay. I don’t know anyone here that could afford to pay three times their rent.
“The council is just not interested in us. They see us as a hindrance.”
The son of a colonel and a fan of all things military-related, Mr Law, 62, set up a market stall specialising in military medals and collectibles in 1999.
When his wife Patricia, 63, was made redundant around five years ago they came to rely on the business being their retirement plan.
But with the rent hike bombshell, on top of a drop in business since the bus interchange was closed on adjacent Princess Street, they have now decided to close the stall at the end of the month.
Mr Law, of Upton, Chester, said he would continue to operate the business's website and would have to double his efforts to ensure money kept coming in.
“At our age we’ve no chance of finding work elsewhere so we’ll just have to do as best we can,” he said. “We’ve still got our bills to pay.”
Latest footfall figures from CWaC suggests there were around 2,000 people a day in the market throughout last week, peaking at 3,700 on Saturday.
The council has stressed the proposed new rents are in line with those paid by stallholders in Ellesmere Port and Northwich markets.
Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, said: “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.
“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.
“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.”
l This newspaper revealed last week that butchers David Joinson and Mark Johns were also facing huge rent hikes with proposed annual bills of around £20,000 and £30,000 respectively.
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.
See full story in the Chester Leader