EMBATTLED Mexborough Indoor Market traders have asked the Prime Minister and his new retail guru Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas to back them in their fight against five-fold rent increases.
Stallholders have written to David Cameron and Ms Portas – who is carrying out a Government backed review on declining High Street shops – seeking their support against an impending 500 per cent rent hike imposed by Doncaster Council.
Traders’ spokesman Gordon Smith said: “We have contacted the Prime Minister to outline the position here and the effect these high rents will have on trade in the town.
“The Government claims it is trying to stimulate trade and they have enlisted the help of Mary Portas now.
“If we could get her, and her TV cameras down here that would be great. It would put our story in the national spotlight.
“What’s happening in Mexborough is just one example of the challenges small businesses are facing across the country.”
TV retail guru Portas will conduct a review for Mr Cameron aimed at halting the “decline of the High Street in England”.
As part of the review, undertaken for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, she will visit several town centres and take part in “engagement events” with shopowners and customers.
Traders in Mexborough believe their rents row with Doncaster Council provides a perfect test case for the review.
Gordon Smith said: “There are plenty of traders who are saying they will leave when the new rents come into force because they can’t afford them. If that happens, then the market hall will not he here for long.
“If it closed, that would be a disaster for Mexborough, because it would also pull in less footfall for shops on the High Street.
“We understand rents have to go up, but they should be at a more reasonable rate.”
Mr Smith plans to send a letter to every councillor in the Doncaster borough asking that they raise the rents issue in the council chamber.
Doncaster Council argues that the rents have not gone up for 15 years and the authority cannot afford to continue subsidising the market at current rates. The increases will be phased in over three years, starting in October.
Traders currently pay as little as £15.72 per week for a single unit, but this will rise to £39.69 in three years’ time.
For some, the result will be a jump from just over £800 per year to around £4,100 for one unit.
Doncaster Mayor Peter Davies has vowed to review the rents again next April – but this will come six months AFTER traders are required to sign the new deal.
Mayor Davies last week blamed previous Labour councillors for keeping the rates the same for the last 15 years, describing their decision as “ludicrous.”
He added: “I have been down to the market at Mexborough and it’s a nice, buzzing place.
“The traders are in a safe, warm and well-lit hall.
“We have actually had new traders coming forward, interested in setting up in the market.
“I don’t like increasing the rents, but that’s life.
“The very reason they have gone up is to give the market a chance of having a future.”