Covered Market shopkeepers have expressed anger with the Council’s decision to raise rent prices, fearing that it will force local businesses to shut down. The Council is bringing in the changes on a case-by-case basis, following its five-year rent review. Currently four shops have been faced with substantially higher rent charges after hearings. The Cake Shop will have to pay 51% more for its lease, after managing to convince an arbitrator to negotiate down the figure from the original 170%. Sally Davis, the Director of The Cake Shop in the Covered Market, said, “We will struggle but we will carry on. None of us are big businesses, we are all from family-run backgrounds.” She added, “It will kill the market, I’m sure it will. If a lot of the bigger family businesses go because of the rent, only big franchises will be able to afford it. Because we’re crafty and creative, I think. Ultimately we will survive because it’s my livelihood and we’ll diversify but we may have to take more corporate orders.” The Covered Market Association currently represents the businesses within the compound, and is planning to step up its publicity campaign, ‘Save the Covered Market’. George Osborne, the Shadow Chancellor, visited some of the affected shops in the market to show his support during a visit to Oxford on 15 April. Richard Alden, President of the Covered Market Association and owner of Haymond’s Fishmongers, stressed the need for continued support for the campaign. He said, “The businesses require positive momentum to maximise the presence of the Covered Market.”Shops like Ben’s Cookies and Moo-Moos, which are smaller in size, are also facing significant rent increases: the former may be charged approximately 30% more. However some have complained that the rent increases are unlikely to be matched by improved maintenance or better advertising for the compound. Davis complained, “It’s archaic, there are over 100 light fixtures that have no light bulbs in them.” The owners of Moo-Moos, said, “It’s inevitable it was going to happen but it seems unfair, given the state of the market. Basically, if they continue with these increases there won’t be any individual shops left, it will all be Topshop and Zara.” A spokesperson for Oxford City Council said, “Both parties freely entered into the contract, which included a rent review at five year intervals. We have gone to the Arbitrator who will ultimately decide the level of rent…given the circumstances.”Additional reporting by Daniel Rolle Photo: Daniel Rolle
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