The founder of a Norfolk auction house whose business failed after a few months has been ordered to pay nearly £7,000 in unpaid rent.

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Matt Wilkins opened Wymondham Salerooms at the Great Expectations Business Park, off the old A11 at Suton, in February 2011.

However, it closed in May of that year after just 113 days, with Mr Wilkins citing inadequate car parking at the site as the reason for the failure. He had not paid any rent.

That led landlords Circuit Consultants (Norwich) Ltd Pension Plan to launch a claim for £9,617, with trustee Peter Jubb telling Norwich County Court yesterday:
“He signed a lease in the full knowledge of its contents.

“In my opinion, he grossly underestimated the costs of setting up that business and, within a short space of time, he was having to leave because he had run out of funds.”

Mr Wilkins launched a defence against the claim, saying the lease was not valid because it had not been signed by all the pension plan’s trustees.

He also claimed the
unsuitable car parking led to the business failure – but
Mr Jubb said this was
not part of the lease agreement.

At the end of a two-hour hearing held in the small claims court, District Judge Airey found in favour of the claimant, saying: “There
can be no doubt the
parties entered into this lease.

“Having considered that Mr Wilkins is a professional businessman, I find it surprising – even if he was busy – that he didn’t take seek independent advice about the agreement he was going into.”

However, she said there was clear evidence Mr Wilkins had vacated the property in May and so was not liable for the full value of the claim.

The total amount Mr Wilkins now has to pay is £6,716.97 within 14 days.

Mr Wilkins, who is now airfield manager at Old Buckenham Airfield, said he was willing to put the matter behind him and move on to concentrate on his current interests.

“It is a great shame it didn’t work – one of the key reasons was that people couldn’t park there,” he said.

Peter Jubb, a trustee of Circuit Consultants, said: “Although we are disappointed the claim was reduced on a technicality we are pleased Mr Wilkins has been held accountable.”

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