Centre director Darren Pearce said some very successful shops that had stayed open ‘held back on paying anything’ at times during the pandemic.
Giving evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, he said: “It was an incredibly difficult throughout that period and left us in a very precarious position at times. Companies that could pay did not pay and that’s not right.”
Meadowhall had offered ‘huge’ rent concessions and deferments and cut the service charge by 20 per cent to help occupiers, he added. As a result the void rate was not as bad as anticipated.
Sales in April were up on the same period in 2019, he added, and that was before indoor dining was allowed again this week.
But business rates were up 87 per cent in the last 20 years and were now so high they were ‘putting jobs at risk’.
He added: “Rates are higher than rents in some cases. We support our shopkeepers’ campaign for rates reform.”
Mr Pearce also said one of their biggest challenges was ‘aggressive’ young men who refused to wear a mask and claimed to have asthma.
Apart from essential retail, the mega-mall had been shut for six months, he added. The previous longest closure was six days due to flooding.
He added: “I have been here 27 years and it was without doubt an unprecedented set of events.”
The discussion ‘Supporting our high streets after COVID-19’ was chaired by Sheffield MP Clive Betts and included top bosses at Timpson, EE and JD Wetherspoon.