Monday, 28 March 2011

More businesses leave Lancaster market as Council dithers over fate

(with thanks to various virtual-lancaster readers) As Lancaster City Council continues to ponder the fate of Lancaster Market - one year after councillors voted in droves to stop its closure and local people marched to keep it open - virtual-lancaster has learnt that more tenants are to leave, some fed up with its continued mis-management.

A meeting of city centre retailers will discuss the Market's future and other retail concerns tomorrow (29th March).

Gone from the Market in recent weeks is butchers Wilsons, a long established business which was bought by new owners about two years ago. The Chinese Food Stall is moving to Common Garden street in the next few weeks.

Also leaving is John Glassock's picture framing stall, with John now focusing on his shop on Sir Simons Arcade.

There are rumours circulating about another long-established business leaving too, but we have yet to confirm this.

The departures mean the Market will be at the lowest capacity than it has ever been once these next two leave.  Market tenants Christopher and Roger Dean, owners of M Green and Son, say they have never seen it as empty - and their business is in its 49th year this year.

Part of the reason for these departures may be down to behind the scenes changes in the way Lancaster City Council charges rent on units. virtual-lancaster understands the Council are now issuing monthly bills instead of quarterly for rent and service charge from 1st April, which is worrying some tenants as it may weaken the stall holders' position under the Landlord and Tenants act. When paying quarterly the tenant must have six months notice to quit. If tennants are expected to pay monthly this may mean a reduction in notice required if payment is late.

Quaterly rents allow tenants a longer period to generate the sales needed to pay rent.

virtual-lancaster also understands that the new leases proposed by the Council are now being considered by the market tenants solicitor. One worrying part of the new lease, according to Roger and Christopher Green, is the 'break clause', which would allow the Council to move tenants into a building which would have much much smaller units (anything down to a pasting table).

Under the Landlord and Tenants Act, the Council would only be able to move them into 'suitable premises', ie units of a similar size. It would seem the only reason they have put this clause in is to get round the act by having tenants sign it away.

Once again, despite its public commitment to keeping the Market open, elements within the Council appear to be doung their utmost to make it unviable and some tenants are voting with their feet in response.

"It is a really worrying time," one stall holder told virtual-lancaster, "Especially since the museum idea started the market has got quieter.

"With these tenants leaving it creates an even larger deficit."

A Retailers Meeting will take place tomorrow (Tuesday 29th March) to discuss several options to boost trade, including the possibility of creating a Business Improvement District for the city centre, the possible re-location of the Market to the Museum building, the street market and potential promotion days.

• If you are a Lancaster city centre retailer and would like to attend the Retailers Meeting, call Paul at Joseph and Co on 01524 63981 to reserve your place.

• More about Business Improvement Districts at www.ukbids.org

1 comment:

Lofty said...

A cynic might believe that the City and County Councils are devoted to the destruction of the Market and the City Centre.

The City has ignored the workable recommendations of their consultants and opted for a ludicrous move to a listed building with a fraction of the area and the need to build an extension for all fresh food retailers. They couldn't even get their heads around letting people know what is in the market with a simple rolling display or even a slide show.

The County has eliminated on-street parking within walking distance of the City Centre and ignored pleas for Park & Ride- despite half our population living in rural areas with no effective public transport. Even the pay and display in Queen St is being removed.
In February the Dallas Rd area Residents Only scheme destroyed 300+ on street parking places with some market traders reporting an immediate 50% drop in footfall.
The County, in an inexplicable U-turn, reversed decades of planning restrictions and removed its objection to Tesco Express. A move that will cost local traders - on Tesco's estimation - over £3000000 a year. At the City planning meeting, when it became clear that councillors were opposed to Tesco, an apparently panicking Chair halted the meeting and allowed officers to berate our elected members until they changed their minds. Why ?

And now we are faced with yet another giant super store on the Scotforth Rd. Is this yet another 'done deal' ? Such projects don't spring up like dandelions, almost all developers spend a long time consulting officers and councillors in advance. Has the public been deliberately kept in the dark ?

On whose side are our officers and elected representatives ?