Barnsley market traders threaten more action in row over rent reductions

Market traders in Barnsley have made a formal approach to have a rent reduction introduced for part of the new Glassworks complex extended to all stallholders as their relationship with the council becomes increasingly tense.

Upstairs, downstairs: Ground floor traders at the Glassworks market now pay double rent compared to colleagues upstairs
Upstairs, downstairs: Ground floor traders at the Glassworks market now pay double rent compared to colleagues upstairs

Traders met to discuss rents in response to a council decision to reduce costs for traders on the first floor of the flagship market hall by 50 per cent, but to leave costs for those on the ground floor unchanged.

They insist traders across the new complex are struggling from a combination of a new rent regime, extended opening hours and trading performance.

Now they have set a ten day deadline for the council to come back with a response on its “intended actions in relation to rent reductions for all”, with a threat that if a response is not provided “in this timeframe the traders will continue with other avenues of protest”.

One demonstration has already taken place, in an attempt to draw attention to the situation.

Barnsley Council has declined to comment on the development, other than to reiterate a previous statement that their decision on rents was made following consultation with traders.

The Barnsley Group of the National Market Traders Federation wrote to the council on behalf of traders who attended the meeting, to ensure they were represented as ‘one voice’, said their letter.

It claimed traders on the ground floor “who have not been subject to any rent reductions are equally struggling to keep their businesses afloat with many traders openly reporting that they cannot continue to pay the rent at the full rate.”

“Traders are standing together in unity to protest to Barnsley Council to reduce rents by 50 per cent for all traders, including downstairs as this reduction would be a fair and much needed survival package.

“The reduction is fully backed by the upstairs traders in attendance.”

The new market hall opened late last year, following the meat and fish market which began trading in September last year.

Barnsley Council have insisted the hall has a healthy footfall from customers and the market was included as a pivotal element of the town centre regeneration, being promoted to a central location with doors directly onto Cheapside and May Day Green, unlike the old market which was largely hidden behind conventional shop frontages.

To underline the market’s importance as a feature of the new town centre, trading hours were extended to match the opening hours of shops, including Thursday, a move which has been unpopular with some traders.

The council has since allowed stallholders to adjust closing times to 4.30pm, but Thursday trading remains a feature of the new market.

In their statement, Barnsley Council said they monitored the debt position within the market and worked to support traders when required.

It said: “After recent feedback from traders followed by a consultation over rent, we have implemented a 50 per cent rent reduction for traders on the first floor of the market.

“Ground floor traders also have the option to move to the first floor if they wish to take advantage of the discount.

“The rent reduction will not only help support traders on the upper level, but also help attract new businesses into the market to ensure it continues to be a vibrant shopping destination.

“As a responsible landlord, the council will assess and speak to traders in debt on an individual basis as we edge towards the three year break clause.

“The majority of market tenants are better off, as they are being billed at a level which is 20 per cent less than the rent contained in the lease agreement.”