Leyland Market 'saved' by council rent cut, says stallholder
A Leyland Market trader says her stall - and the market itself - has been saved by a council decision not to charge rent to retailers at the site if they were forced to close during the last lockdown.
South Ribble Borough Council has decided to waive the payments due from more than two dozen outlets for the entire time that non-essential shops were shut.
The authority had previously issued a so-called “abatement” to cover the period from the start of the lockdown on 4th January until 15th February. Cabinet member for finance Matthew Tomlinson has now extended that timeframe until 12th April, when most retailers were allowed to reopen.
The rent-free period for the café at the market has been stretched to 17th May, as it was not allowed to operate until restrictions on indoor hospitality were lifted.
The extension of all the concessions to traders will cost the council £12,000.
Lisa Roberts, who has run the Crafty Melts stall for four years, says that the authority’s support has made the difference between her venture sinking or swimming.
“If they’d have charged rent, it would have put us out of business, there are no two ways about it - so I can't thank the council enough.
“Because we are in a shared indoor space and aren’t charged business rates, we weren't entitled to any of the Covid business support grants from the government.
“If the stalls which had been without any income had also had a rent bill to pay, most of them wouldn't have reopened. You’d have been left with no market - or at least one just made up of the food businesses that were able to trade throughout,” said Lisa, whose stall specialises in handmade home fragrances.
However, she fears that the future for traditional retailers like her is far from certain even as the country prepares to leave lockdown behind.
“We are down on trade - a lot of people are still frightened of coming out and others have got used to shopping online. I just have to hope that confidence will return once more people are fully vaccinated - and that they will want to go and support small independent traders,” Lisa added.
Cllr Tomlinson said that the rent abatement was intended to provide “much-needed relief” to a key feature on Leyland’s high street.
“We know a number of our traders have suffered severe financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, and supporting local businesses to get back on their feet over the coming months is one of our top priorities as a Council.
“Leyland Market is a long-standing, integral part of our community and we look forward to seeing it thrive well into the future,” Cllr Tomlinson added.