A WALKOUT is planned by market traders in Barnsley to support their campaign for a rent reduction across the board after the council slashed charges for those with stalls upstairs but left rent unchanged on the ground floor.
Traders are planning a protest around the Cheapside entrance to the new market hall on Thursday between 2pm and 3pm, in a bid to draw attention to the situation and gain public support. The market was moved to its new home in the Glass Works shopping centre around a year ago and there has been tension between traders and Barnsley Council since then, with some reporting difficult trading conditions though the council insists the market is thriving with strong footfall.
Early in the autumn the council announced rents upstairs would be halved, with an invitation to ground floor traders to relocate, if they wished.
Traders responded with a protest, arguing that reduced rent was needed for all involved but that argument has been rejected by the council. As a result, they are continuing their campaign with Thursday’s ‘walkout’ as the next step.
A notice issued to businesses in the complex by the protest group clarifies that they are not looking to reduce the discount upstairs, rather to bring all stalls into line with what those traders have been offered.
Traders are being urged to spare staff where possible to join the hour-long demonstration.
Spokesman for the Barnsley branch of the National Market Traders Federation, Kieron Knight, said: “I think we will see some traders pushed into bankruptcy because of accumulating debts. You cannot stand by and watch that happen without doing your very best to prevent it.”
Figures released by Barnsley Council at the end of the summer revealed a substantial percentage of stallholders owed rent payments to the council.
David Shepherd, Barnsley Council’s service director for economic regeneration, said: “As a responsible landlord, we have regular discussions with our market traders about improvements that can be made to the market. Recent conversations with traders suggested there was a difference in trading position between the ground level and first floor of the market. We decided to look into this opening up further discussions, with traders. After listening to feedback, we proposed a 50 per cent reduction in rent for first floor traders.
“After taking this to a consultation, the results showed that the majority of traders were happy with the proposal. Therefore the change was implemented from September 1.
“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.
“By attracting more new businesses into the market, we’re hopeful this will offset any loss of rental income from reducing rents for upstairs traders.
“The market has been supported by the addition of new operators in Market Kitchen, which is an exciting addition to the market, wider Glass Works and town centre.
“As always, I would like to encourage the people of Barnsley to continue to support our fantastic traders and brilliant market by shopping locally.”
- Provided by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.