A market trader whose family has held a stall in Castleford town centre for more than 120 years says he has been forced to shut up shop, and warned Wakefield Council that it needs to start listening to traders.
Andrew Robinson is the fifth generation of his family to run the food stall, Davison & Robinson, that was open in Castleford’s Indoor Market up until last week.
But the £800 a week rent means he had little option to shut.
While private landlords are willing to negotiate rents to reflect the reduced demand for town centre units, Mr Robinson fears the remaining traders will eventually move out due to the council’s unwillingness to negotiate.
With such inflexible rents, he says traders have to pass on the costs, leading to price rises which he says defeats the purpose of a market.
Mr Robinson, 58, said: “We can’t offer the customers the value they expect, because ultimately, the costs are too high.
“It’s just not sustainable, there’s no flexibility. We have to move with the times and have to change.
“The council has this fixation about what they think the place is worth, and it’s not.
“That is borne out by the number of empty units. There’s been some cracking tenants lost.
“I’m the fifth generation and it’s happening on my watch, so it is quite sad really.”
Mr Robinson says the nine staff from the market stall have moved to the company’s other businesses on Aire Street, including The Ale Seller, The Powder Keg firework shop and the Flowers and Giftware store.
He says that he may consider opening up his food shop again in the town centre, but would be in a privately-rented unit rather than a council-owned pitch.
He now fears for the remaining traders left in the indoor market.
He said: “The council should have handed the market over to a third party, because they do not listen to people who are experienced.
“It’s like banging your head against a wall. Nobody can make a decision.
“If you have empty units, it’s telling you that nobody is prepared to pay the rents.
“I’m fearful how it is going to go. There’s this knock-on effect if one leaves, and there’s nobody doing anything about it.”
Council defends prices
Wakefield Council has defended its prices for market pitches, claiming they are in line with other towns.
The council charges more than £29 per square foot for each pitch, including rent and service charge, and they say a 10 per cent reduction was introduced in 2017.
Julie Russell, Wakefield Council’s service director for arts, culture and leisure, said: “It is always sad to see businesses leaving, especially long-serving ones such as Davison & Robinson, and we’d like to thank them for their contribution.
“We have tried to support them over recent years but unfortunately, particularly in the current retail climate, some businesses are not sustainable.
“The market is currently 81 per cent occupied and five new businesses have begun operating in the last 12 months.
“We have a number of initiatives to help attract new businesses and to support existing businesses who wish to expand in a fair and equal way.
“In some cases, we have worked with businesses who are struggling and have helped them to relocate to smaller units in order to help them reduce their running costs.
"We are also currently working on potential improvements to modernise the market and attract new shoppers. Our rents are in line with markets in similar towns in the region and go towards our operational costs, which includes promoting our market offer and helping increase visitors.”