WORRIED traders fear businesses could be driven from Doncaster Market after another rent rise hit home.
Members of the Doncaster Market Traders’ Federation have handed Doncaster Council a petition calling for the charges to be cut, after they found themselves paying an extra 2.6 per cent for their pitches from this month.
They are concerned by another ‘blow’ to the market which has already seen big rent rises in recent years, of 5.6 per cent last year and 50 per cent over two years prior to that.
A quarter of the stalls are currently empty, according to official statistics.
Market Traders’ Federation president Nigel Wilkinson said he was aware of two traders leaving the market in the last week alone because of the higher charges.
He said: “Over the last two years the rent has gone up steeply. It is getting to the point where it is not sustainable.
“This week alone two businesses have ceased trading because of the overheads and the present economic climate.
“It is just not feasible for some to continue trading. Business just cannot sustain another increase in this climate.
“We’ve lobbied the managers for the last three years, and the Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton as well. We just get told the council’s got no money.
“We fear that, unless they have a review of the rents, the market will be decimated.”
Traders say the market’s footfall - the number of people visiting to shop - is down.
Doncaster Council has recently announced a major programme of improvements to the market, as well as to markets in Mexborough and Rossington.
A £1.3 million package of work will see more than 100 stalls removed from the open market and current market top sections, and then replaced with more modern structures.
They would also be laid out in a way which will mean shoppers can get better access to the indoor Wool Market, which would be made more visible.
The project, called the Doncaster Markets Business Development Scheme, is intended to reverse a fall in the number of traders currently using the open market.
Officials say the aim is to reverse a decline - which they believe could lead to only 50 of the 138 outdoor stalls being occupied in three years’ time without urgent action.
The council’s director of regeneration and environment, Peter Dale, said: “Annual rent increases in accordance with RPI are included in the lease agreements signed by traders when they take a pitch at Doncaster Markets.
“This year’s 2.6 per cent increase is in accordance with RPI and was agreed by full council as part of the budget last month.
“The market occupancy rate is currently in excess of 76 per cent. Doncaster Council has invested heavily in Doncaster Markets over recent years and recently approved almost a million pounds’ worth of additional funds to regenerate the open market.”