Stallholders at Barnsley market fear a hike in rents which will more than triple their bills could force them out of business when the new meat and fish hall opens in the prestigious new Glass Works centre later this year.
The rent increase will be coupled to business rates for those with stalls large enough to qualify and there is uncertainty about the impact of those charges, because they have not yet been assessed.
A reduction in car parking in the immediate vicinity of the market when the existing multi-storey building is demolished later this year is expected to compound the issue, said butcher Stuart Barrow, who fears he will need to employ more staff and trade six days a week to have any prospect of generating the turnover to meet the increased charges.
His monthly rent was historically £526 but that was slashed by around £200 as a concession from the council after work started to transform the old Metropolitan Centre into the Glass Works, though it has recently been increased up to £416.
But he has been told to expect charges of £1,700 a month – more than three times his original rent – for a stall in the new market.
“Last year at Christmas visitors to the market were down ten per cent and this year it was down again,” he said.
He fears that even with the lure of new premises, the market will fail to attract enough customers to create the trade stallholders will need to meet their costs.
Barnsley Council has already announced its intention to free up fresh parking areas to take the place of the bays lost when the multi-storey is closed, but Stuart’s concern is that parking in the immediate vicinity of the market will be lacking.
One surface car park in the area had already been taken over to provide space for contractors’ parking and storage, he said.
“You cannot take the sort of money we will need without more staff but they all have to be paid.
“I have asked what the business rates would be and they don’t know because they haven’t been set.
“I’m getting to the position of thinking ‘what’s the point’. With all that rent, I will be lucky to get a wage out of six days’ trading,” he said.
Mr Barrow said he had been working under uncertainty about the future since 2007, when he was first shown plans for the redesigned town centre and new market accommodation.
Since then, the blueprints had been redrawn several times as the proposed development had stalled, he said.
Matthew Gladstone, Executive Director for Place said: “It is an exciting time for Barnsley; we are moving closer to the opening of the new home for Barnsley Markets and you can see the fantastic progress being made on the building.
“As a council, we have invested heavily in the meat and fish market and the wider market as a whole - and we will continue to do so as we have a real belief that our markets are at the heart of the town.
“The meat and fish market will be at the centre of The Glass Works. It will be in a fantastic retail position with its own entrance directly from Cheapside; a prime location for footfall. The feedback we’ve had from the traders has been really positive and they are looking forward to moving into their new home. We have received a high level of interest and currently have a leasing process underway, and a robust level of engagement with our existing traders to ensure they are kept up-to-date.
“In terms of car parking, robust arrangements are being put in place in terms of short, medium and long term parking requirements.
“We are very much looking forward to working with traders to ensure that their individual businesses and the wider markets benefit from what is an exciting new and unique commercial opportunity, especially as we open up new opportunities online via ShopAppy. All of our residents can have a role to play in supporting the success of Barnsley Markets by shopping locally where quality, value, tradition and customer service is at the heart of our traders’ businesses. Spending money locally also helps to support the wider regional supply chains that exist building a much strong economy for Barnsley.
“We are proud of our award-winning, historic market and are moving from strength to strength; we’re working towards the provision of a lively, vibrant markets offer, that’s located right in the heart of the town centre and will be the first part of The Glass Works scheme to open in the autumn.”