14,000 back market traders’ plea for help

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A PETITION signed by 14,000 people was today being presented to a Sheffield Council meeting in support of market traders who fear a decision to end a rates discount will result in many of them going bust.

Ian Bingham – one of the longest-standing traders on Castle Market – is handing over the signatures at the cabinet meeting this afternoon at the Town Hall calling for the 40 per cent rate reduction to be reinstated.

The 40 per cent discount was introduced three years ago as compensation for the rundown condition of the buildings until the market’s new home on The Moor was ready.

But it has become a casualty of spending cuts over the coming year.

Mr Bingham, who runs the Bingham and Browne fruit and vegetable stall at Castle Market and is vice president of the Market Traders’ Federation branch there, said: “We need the discount, which ends this month, in order to survive. Without it, traders will face a huge burden at a time when customer numbers have been declining.

“We should have moved into the new market by 2010 but it’s still not ready and, if we have to pay higher rates, there may not be many stalls left to move into it.

“The rent for my stall will increase from £1,200 a month to £2,000. Traders cannot afford that sort of increase when footfall has decreased by 13 per cent in the last year and the council may lose many of us.”

Mr Bingham, aged 43, from Sothall, has worked on the stall – founded by his father George Bingham and associate George Browne 54 years ago – for 26 years.

He said: “The council seems to be shooting itself in the foot by removing the rate discount. If there are far fewer stalls, it will take less money in rates than it does now.”

Plans announced last week to finally push forward with the Moor market development are to be approved at the same Sheffield Council cabinet meeting today.

The authority is preparing to allocate £18m and will take direct control of the scheme instead of seeing the Moor’s private developers Scottish Widows take the lead.

With a site already cleared on the lower section of the precinct, Sheffield Council has set a target date of the end of 2013 for the markets hall to open, replacing the complex at Castlegate.

Now, the lease for the markets site is going back to the council, which is set to borrow £16.73m so it can take charge of all issues, from confirming design to construction.

Its fund is being topped up by £1.3m from the predicted sale of Castlegate.