A councillor has branded a million-pound investment into Sutton’s indoor market a “waste of taxpayers money” and is asking why ‘rent went up’.
Councillor Lee Anderson, who left the ruling Labour party a month ago to join the Conservatives, said Ashfield District Council has “failed” after it was revealed just 48 per cent of the market at Idlewells is full –18 per cent more occupied than before the work.
Only 16 of the 33 stalls are occupied, although the council has vowed to fill the market to 75 per cent capacity by the end of March 2019.
The council spent £1.8m on renovations to the market, including asbestos removal, skylight and a new layout.
The work was completed in December, having started in February last year.
However, Coun Anderson said high rent might be driving stall holders away.
He said: “We need answers. I know one stall which has not gone back after rent went up dramatically and the trader ended up in hospital because of it. They feel like they are unable to return – it could ruin the trader.”
Coun Anderson, who represent Huthwaite and Brierley, said he got involved in the issue because he “visits the market every weekend”.
He said: “Every Saturday I walk through and walk out disappointed, I want it to be a vibrant shopping centre.
“It is not rocket science, the stalls are too expensive.
“In my opinion, this project has been a complete waste of taxpayers money.
“There may be one or two traders making a living in there, but that is simply not good enough. It needs to be made affordable.”
The council said the price stallholders pay are “all different now” since the renovation, because of the difference in size of the stalls.
A council spokesman said: “The investment was made to ensure a bright and sustainable long-term future for this valuable asset.
“We are not looking for ‘quick wins’, so have been working with new and existing traders to ensure they have a sustainable business plan for the future.
"The market stall charges have been revised with effect from January 2018, however practically all the stalls have been reconfigured so it is difficult to draw direct comparisons between the old stall charges and the new.
"The council has had significant interest and are continuing to develop these into firm commitments. Many are existing established traders who are seeking a new location to develop their business and relocating a business does not happen overnight. The markets team are working on commercial terms that satisfy both the individual and the market’s financial plans.
Coun Anderson has said he will be bringing up the issue at the next council meeting tomorrow, Thursday, April 26.