Sutton market revamp 'puts our business at risk'
Traders at Sutton's indoor market say regeneration plans are 'putting their business in jeopardy' with rents set to double in some cases.
The market is set to close temporarily on January 28 for three weeks while developer Quarterbridge – appointed by Ashfield District Council to run the space – carries out an extensive revamp to modernise the market and change the layout to include a food court.
But Quarterbridge is also splitting unit sizes into smaller sections and increasing rents – some by more than double.
Some traders who have held a place on the market for decades are now being forced to reapply for their pitches, while others say promises made to ease the transition are yet to materialise.
Joy Hoskins and David Jakes run The Bouquet florist together, and recently expanded by buying a card shop on the market.
The stall has been in David’s family for more than 40 years after he took over from his father, but, he said, the insecurity over the refit is putting their business at risk.
He said: ““We put a lot of money into this and there’s no talking to Quarterbridge.
“If you complain they say ‘we’ll get another flower shop in’.
“With the rents, it’s going to drastically change our margins.
“We’re going to have to re-do our business plan to see if we can afford them. It’s putting everybody in jeopardy.”
Joy said: “We pay Â£636, a month and it’s going up to Â£1,400.
“What they’re trying to do is get the posh outlets in. It’s going to attract more people, but with smaller spaces we can’t sell as much.”
Stallholders said they feel, after keeping the market alive for years, they deserve some recompense.
But instead of being given help to stay, some claim they’re being pushed out.
A more modern market with a larger food hall may leave less room for the traditional stalls – and some question how successful the new market will be.
Andrew Orme, of Slippers & Shoes, said: “This isn’t Nottingham city, this is Sutton and they’re trying to make this into something it’s not.”
He said you can tell which demographics shop in the market, because every time the government imposes benefit sanctions he sees a drop in sales.
He said: “The first one was the bedroom tax. I took a drop that week and never recovered. They’re not understanding who the clientele is here.”
Quarterbridge was unavailable for comment.
Voice from across the market
Alan Holmes, manager of Alan’s Family Butcher, said: “If you’re in a prime position then they’re going to charge more – but it’s not fair to increase by 100 per cent. We do expect it to go up, because it hasn’t for some time, but it should be the same for everybody across the board.”
Andrew Orme, who runs Slippers & Shoes, has been putting away all his stock ready to close in a few weeks. He said: “We’re not getting enough information, and they’ve made all these promises of help, but we get nothing. They’re not listening to what people are saying, and it’s a case of ‘if you don’t like it, tough’.
“We’ve stood here for all these years and we get nothing. Instead, we even have to do our business plans again to re-apply for the stalls.”
Martin Topley, of Martin’s DVDs,has more than 10,000 films and TV boxsets to put in storage by January 28.
He said: “The council says it is on our side but Quarterbridge are picking and choosing who stays. We’re three weeks from closing and we really need to know what’s happening. I’d say they’re deluded that you can put an emphasis on food. People in Sutton aren’t going to pay Â£6 for a pancake – they want a sausage roll and a coffee.”
Council thanks traders for their cooperation
The Â£1.6m revamp is a ‘key corporate priority’ for Ashfield District Council, planned to contribute toward the regeneration of Sutton town centre.
A council spokesman said: “A redevelopment of this scale will inevitably cause an element of disruption within the retail environment and the council has been pleased with the cooperation and feedback it has received from the market traders.”
The council and Quarterbridge said they are in discussion with a number of traders who have expressed an interest in moving into alternative retail accommodation for the period of the works.
These include creating bespoke space to allow them continuation of trade, the offer of storage facilities and help with their move
The spokesman said: “Those businesses who are remaining in the market hall will be offered storage space and moving boxes over the coming weeks, to help them clear their stock and equipment during the short closure period.
“Over the coming weeks, all existing traders will also be offered generic and one-to-one business advice, to help them maximise the potential of their retail offer in the newly refurbished market hall.”