Tuesday 20 February 2024
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Nottingham

Victoria Centre Market traders trust waning as council confirms closure

Victoria Centre Market traders say trust in Nottingham City Council is waning after a meeting concluded the authority will close the market in 2024.

The costs associated with running the market soared by hundreds of thousands of pounds after the centre’s previous owner, intu, increased rents in 2014, and the council has been forced to subsidise the market at a loss ever since.

In 2022 the council said it was planning to end the lease on the market in a bid to save an estimated £39m over the remaining 50 years, but traders have argued this figure is incorrect and with good management the market could be turned around.

Negotiations had been taking place with centre asset managers Global Mutual to try and end the lease while providing adequate compensation to traders.

However in a meeting in June traders were informed negotiations had fallen through and the market remained open, with new traders welcomed on short-term leases.

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After months of uncertainty council staff met traders for a second time on Monday, December 11, where they were told the council is aiming to end the lease by summer or autumn 2024.

 

No new traders will be accepted going forward, discounting those already planning to open a stall.

Colin Parr is the new Corporate Director of Communities, Environment and Resident Services, having taken over from Ita O’Donovan in the summer.

He said: “I’m aware of the history and what happened earlier this year and I wanted to come and talk to you in the run up to Christmas to give you a steer, corporately, where we are at.

“As you are aware the council’s Executive Board took a decision to look to achieve vacant possession of the market. That is still the council’s intention.

“As I understand last time we were up against the clock as it were and there was a deadline that was there with the landlord, and we were working to try and meet that.

“We don’t have that this time. We are currently working towards looking to achieve vacant possession at some point in summer or autumn next year.”

Speaking after the meeting Nick Clark, owner of Cobblers and Keys, said: “How can we trust them? We’ve been down this road before.

“I do not know any more and I do not trust them.”

Sharon Manning, who runs Aladdin’s Cave with Stephen Taylor, added: “It seems to be the same conversation every year with a different person.”

During the meeting market traders continued to argue the market could make the council money if it had effective management.

Some questioned whether Shaun Miles, the head of markets and fairs, should resign.

Concerns were also raised over the lack of working toilets, lifts and heating.

Mr Miles promised work was taking place with a contractor to fix the issues, but warned parts for elevators could take time to arrive.

The market’s occupancy is currently at 48 per cent, and traders were told the council’s issuing of a Section 114 notice at the end of November, effectively declaring bankruptcy, makes matters more complicated.

The Section 114 notice means any new non-essential expenditure is prohibited and must be approved by the council’s chief finance officer.

Mr Parr said investment to bring the market back to working order is therefore not an option.

Condition surveys had estimated the costs of such work range from anywhere between £2m and £10m.

“I don’t like closing markets, I don’t like it at all,” he said.

“But when I look at the numbers, the service charge is significant.

“If in January we have got 200 people waiting to come and they are all willing to pay double rent, I might bring you back to have those discussions, but the likelihood of that is pretty low so this is our direction of travel.”

Traders asked if they would be supported once the market closes, to which Mr Parr replied: “The driver for me is there are 30 businesses here, they are operating in the city. I think we have got an obligation [to help].

“I’ve been involved in markets for years in lots of different places, and I think when you close markets you need to make sure you do the right thing by the traders who have paid your wages for many years and you need to help them.”

Mr Clark added: “People in Nottingham should come and use us while we are here. Come and support us.”

•  Victoria Centre Market: Council confirms permanent closure

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