Market price hikes threatens future

ONE of the country's most historic and prestigious markets has been hit by a “callous and unwarranted” rent hike triggering survival fears for the future.

Dave Gooderham

ONE of the country's most historic and prestigious markets has been hit by a “callous and unwarranted” rent hike triggering survival fears for the future.

The iconic twice-weekly market in Bury St Edmunds has already been hit by the economic turmoil and the opening of the Arc shopping development today.

Now they have been hit with a 4% rent increase by St Edmundsbury Borough Council as part of the 2009/10 budget - a decision that has incurred the wrath of community leaders and traders alike.

Mark Ereira , opposition councillor, said: “We must as a council do all we can to lift spirits in these difficult economic times.

“With my colleagues, we called on the majority group to freeze proposed increases and there was money in the budget to easily do so.

Most Read

“Fortunately, the council's reserves remain healthy - despite the economic downturn. Most disappointingly, our call to freeze the market traders rent increase was voted down.

“To increase market traders' rents in our historic market town at this time is callous and unwarranted. We need the market to thrive. They deserve our support rather than face paying an extra �17,000 a year in rents to the council.”

The vice-chairman of the Bury Market Traders Association last night said the rent increase just added to the problems - even though it had been reduced amid initial fears of a 9% hike.

Bill Grimwood said: “Traders in Bury are very worried about the future. The economic downturn means less people are using the markets and the opening of the Arc has led to some traders saying they will give it a few months and then leave if things don't go well. The council should be doing all it can to help all businesses in the town centre to help regenerate it.”

The market rents, and car parking charges, were considered as part of St Edmundsbury's budget setting process agreed last week.

A spokesman for the council said its approach on market tolls was developed in February 2008, after extensive consultation and following three years without any increases. The policy is that the market tolls are increased annually in line with the Retail Price Index level in October.

Bury's market pre-dates the arrival of William the Conqueror and was given a Royal Charter by King John in the 13th Century.