RENTS from Barnsley’s new Glassworks market hall will fall short of expectations this year, leaving the council to find more than £100,000 to plug the gap.
The revelation is a fresh blow for the regeneration project’s finances, which have already been downgraded from an expected money-earner for the authority to an expectation it will have break-even finances.
According to a report for Barnsley councillors, the extra cash is needed because ongoing construction work at the complex, which is a heavily modified version of the old Metropolitan shopping centre, has resulted in some stalls being left unoccupied.
The internal report states the extra cash, which will come out of this year’s budget if approved by councillors, ‘will contribute to alleviate this pressure’.
However, traders operating in the market, which opened last year, say they believe the council’s leasing policy which saw more than 30 traders leave in the nine months ahead of the new market opening has contributed to the problem.
The meat and fish market opened in September and there are still several stalls which remain empty.
Some stalls on the first floor of the main market have not had traders in place since that opened before Christmas and at least one has now moved to a different pitch on the ground floor.
More stall space will be made available as work on other areas of the building is completed, leaving the council with more spaces to fill.
The Barnsley group of the National Market Traders Federation has had a series of concerns about the new market and the way it has been managed, including the effectiveness of cleaning, which has been stepped up.
Spokesman Keiron Knight said: “The council lost more than 30 businesses between January 2018 and the opening of the Glassworks in November, which was due to traders not wanting to go in on the terms and conditions of six days a week trading and five-year leases.
“They have lost a lot annually in rents because of that and now there is a black hole that will have to be filled by the taxpayer.”
According to Barnsley Council, the Glassworks project is on track and expected to be completed in the Spring of 2021, with the gap in rental incomes caused by a ‘slightly later’ opening of the market.
In addition they say a ‘small number of stalls remain unoccupied’. However, they add the opening of the new Market Kitchen food court will ‘help alleviate some of the rental shortfall’, though there is no explanation as to how opening a planned section of the complex will make up for cash another area has failed to deliver.