Market traders rent rise anger

COST hikes of more than 10% are putting the future of “the best market in East Anglia” at risk, traders last night warned.

Laurence Cawley

COST hikes of more than 10% are putting the future of “the best market in East Anglia” at risk, traders last night warned.

Stallholders at the twice-weekly Bury St Edmunds market last night urged St Edmundsbury Borough Council to scrap its plans for a 4% hike in stall rents, claiming the rise in other associated costs of running a stall was making some traders question their future.

The 4% rise comes in the wake of a 5% hike imposed by the council last year. Traders claim they are being hit by both rising costs, such as stall rents, electricity costs and parking fees, and a decline in the number of people visiting the market.

The council last night agreed to look at the traders' figures, but claimed there had not been a rise in stall rents for three years prior to the 5% rise last year.

John Webber, chairman of the Bury Market Traders Association, said traders were becoming increasingly “disillusioned” by the council.

Most Read

He said the Bury market was arguably one of the best in the region and claimed stallholders were increasingly struggling to make ends meet.

“I think they have lost sight of what the market is all for. We are disillusioned market traders,” he said.

Fruit and vegetable seller Bill Grimwood said the costs of electricity, parking and pitches amounted to an 11% increase in costs overall and called on the council to do more to help.

“We are small independent traders. We can all see the market is not as vibrant as it used to be, numerous pitches are empty and there are not many people about.”

He said other councils, including Mid Suffolk District Council and East Cambs District Council, were actively supporting their markets through reduced rents.

“You need a regular hard core of traders to make it successful.

Fellow fruit and vegetable stallholder Martin Hart, whose family has traded at Bury market for more than 80 years, said: “We are now 30% down before everything started changing a couple of years ago.

Nigel Aitkens, the council's cabinet member responsible for the market, said: “Bury market is still probably the best market in East Anglia, and it has the pick of days with Wednesdays and Saturdays.

“We did not put up the charges for three years. Last year we had proposed to increase the rent by 10% but decided on 5% on the understanding that the other part of that rise would be this year.

“Before Christmas it was trading very well. We have made a decision that we are not going to increase council tax and with that we do have to look at where our income is coming from, such as the car parks and the market.”

He said there was evidence that people wee “more inclined to go for more value options” which, he said, was good news for the market.

Mr Aitkens added he would investigate the impact of rising electrical, parking and other costs faced by traders. “If their costs have risen by 11% then that is a concern.”