Norwich market stallholders say they are already struggling without added burden of council charges
- Credit: Archant
How are we supposed to make a living? That is the message from stallholders who are facing rising costs to stay on the city's markets.
Norwich City Council is proposing to increase the rent and service charge for traders on the market later this year.
It could see some of the 180 stallholders forced to pay an additional £80 per month through a 42pc increase in service charges
The proposals have been widely criticised by traders who say it is hard enough already to make a living on the market.
And two businesses – The Mare's Nest Music and The Vape Lounge – have already said they would be forced to close under the changes.
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The city council said the increased rates reflected the current cost of running the site, located off Gentleman's Walk.
But Kenneth Williams, who has run The Vape Lounge for the past three years, described the proposals as 'disgusting'.
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He said: 'I am going to have to leave if the service charge comes in. My future is not on this market, because it will be too expensive here.
'It is the oldest permanent market in Britain, but it is not advertised properly. Just look at how empty it is today.'
Under the current proposals, rent will stay the same for 134 stalls, will reduce for 16 and increase by 15pc for 30 stalls.
However, the 42pc service charge increase is likely to affect all of the traders.
The city council said it determined the pricing changes by using information from the National Association of British Markets Authorities.
A council spokesman said the service charge covered repair work, cleaning, maintenance and waste management around the market.
But many traders claimed little had been done to improve the market in previous years, raising questions as to where their money had gone.
Barry Read, who has run Barry Read's Fabrics for the past 44 years, said: 'If they had managed the money they had coming in properly previously, there wouldn't need to be an increase.
'People always come to the market to look for a more reasonable price than you can get in a shop, but with costs going up we won't be able to make it cheaper anymore.'
The amount of rent stallholders must pay varies on where they are located in the market. It costs:
? £6 per day for standard rent.
? £10 for a food stall.
? £11 for a stall along the two sides of the market.
? £15 for a stall facing Gentleman's Walk.
It is understood that traders must pay £76 per month in service charge.
The council said rent had not increased for the past 10 years, while the service charge had not changed for 'several years'.
But it said there was now a need for review.
A spokesman for the authority added: 'This review has established that the current rents are commercially viable and competitive in the current climate so we're not looking to increase the overall rental income in the next financial year.'
'As part of the review we looked at the different rent charges and took into consideration important factors such as stall location and amount of display space.
'The proposed different rent levels, once agreed, will fairly reflect these factors in the costs charged.'
In the coming months the local authority will be installing new benches, lighting and signage along the aisles.
But Ian Goldsmith, owner of Mare's Nest Music, said more needed to be done to better advertise the markets.
'The council is more than happy to use the roofs of the markets to advertise the city, but they don't care what happens underneath,' he said.
'They just don't seem to be able to get people from Gentleman's Walk onto the market. Last Saturday, I took less than a tenner.'
Mr Goldsmith, who has run his stall for two-and-a-half years, said he would be closing on May 13.
Meanwhile, Tori Fama, who has been running the And Eat It cake stall since November last year, said: 'I have two stalls so mine will go up by double. 'For me it is going to be another £80 a month and to put up my products to cover cost that is quite an ask.
'Considering it is now half term, you would think the markets would be busier, but it just doesn't have that appeal.'
Is your business under threat of closure? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684
What the public had to say
While the markets are no longer as busy as they once were a decade ago, the wide variety of items on sale still draws in the shoppers.
Sheila Smith, 72, who lives in West Pottergate, said she had been coming to the markets since she was a child.
'I love the markets, because you have got everything here,' she said. 'I think it's wrong of the council to put the service charge and rent up, and still expect people to make a living.'
Mrs Smith said while the market was clean, she felt it had lost its character in recent years.
'You ask anyone my age and they will say the same. When they changed the canopies the market lost its character,' she said.
Sylvia Medler, 76, from Hellesdon, added: 'I have always been coming here, but the thing is, lots of stalls are empty now.
'It isn't too bad in terms of cleanliness and the stalls are really good. I always enjoy coming through here and having a look.'
What the council had to say
While Norwich City Council was unable to answer several questions put to it within our deadline, it has previously said that any increase was yet to be discussed and agreed.
Kristina Fox, Norwich market manager, added: 'Our initial proposals for rent increase were rejected by the Norwich Market Traders' Association. We took on board all their arguments and reconsidered. We now think we've found an acceptable level for the small proportion of increases proposed.
'The NMTA is doing excellent work. They now meet with market services every other month and we've built up a first-rate working relationship. We're regularly consulting them, working with them and responding to their concerns and requests.
Norwich Market is a business but it's also an incubator for new start-ups offering an unrivalled opportunity to get a business off the ground, cheaply, and in a prime location. It also adds to the unique shopping offer for the city.'