Rent rise threat to markets

STALLHOLDERS say rent increase plans could kill off some of the borough's most popular markets – with Finsbury being the hardest hit.

STALLHOLDERS say rent increase plans could kill off some of the borough's most popular markets - with Finsbury being the hardest hit.

Islington Council is set to hike up the cost of hiring pitches in markets across Islington. But traders in Whitecross Street Market and Exmouth Market will see the biggest increases.

The council say significant rises are needed to ensure that its Street Trading Account does not go into deficit.

Lloyd Mensah, who owns Jollof Pot Ltd, a Ghanaian food stall in Exmouth Market, will see his rent soar from £30 per week to £65 per week - an increase of 117 per cent, which will amount to almost £2,000 every year.

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Mr Mensah, who with his wife Adwoa finished as runners-up in the BBC2 television programme The Restaurant with Raymond Blanc, said: "It's a shock to be informed that there will be an increase of this magnitude on our rent. How can this be justified?

"They say that they need to do it because of increase in running costs and continued improvements to the market but I haven't seen any evidence of these improvements.

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"I appreciate that the costs must be brought into line with other markets but this increase is way over the top and in danger of killing the market."

An objection letter signed by 11 traders at Exmouth Market said: "This increase ranges from 50 per cent to over 100 per cent on our current rent, which we feel is not justified in any way. we are a small market trying hard to sustain in a very small community area.

"We are not supplied with any services, storage, water, toilets, electricity and just rent the street space."

In Whitecross Street, traders with hot food stalls are facing new fees of £65 for Monday to Friday pitches or £40 for Thursday and Friday, while other non-food stallholders will have to pay £45 Monday to Friday, or £25 Thursday to Friday.

This is compared with the previous blanket rate of £42 per week for both food and non-food stalls.

Joan Barker, who runs The Eco People eco-friendly household products and toiletries stall in Whitecross Market, said: "The rent should be even lower because it might encourage more stallholders to come in from Spitalfields. Whitecross Market is better than Spitalfields because more people come to it during the day because of all the hot food stalls. Spitalfields used to have a lot of hot food but since the redevelopment no-one comes there any more because it's full of expensive restaurants.

"Whitecross Market is quite cheap at the moment but £25 is quite an increase."

Other markets affected by the hiked rent include Chapel Market and Camden Passage. Traders on the borough's famous Chapel Market, Islington, will be forced to pay an increase of 4.4 per cent.

Peter Adamides, chairman of the Chapel Market Association, said: "It may not be a huge increase for us but we have to ask ourselves what we are getting in return. It's the principal of the matter and they have to justify any increase. It is not our fault if there are rent arrears because the council have been unable to collect rent from other traders. We should not have to make up that money. There is also the possibility they will just hike up the rents again in the near future and if they keep doing that then the market is in serious danger."

Plans were set to be given the go-ahead at a council licensing meeting yesterday (Wednesday).

Prior to the meeting Councillor Lucy Watt, Islington Council's executive member for business, said: "It's important to note that the suggested changes to fees have not been finalised - they are simply proposals.

"Traders have been asked for their views on these proposals, as part of consultation, and a decision on whether to increase fees will be taken by the council's licensing regulatory committee.

"The reason why this consultation was run was because fees need to reflect the cost of the street market service and also because traders in some markets have been paying much lower rents than those in other parts of the borough.

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