EMBATTLED Mexborough Market traders have started legal action in a bid to stop their rents being increased by as much as 500 per cent.
Some stallholders currently pay as little as £15.72 a week for a single unit, but this will rise to £36.68 per week in November and eventually to £78.60 a week by 2014.
Outraged traders claim they cannot afford the five-fold rent hike imposed by Doncaster Council and fear this will lead to the market’s eventual closure.
They have now appointed solicitors and surveyors to look into the matter, and they are locked in talks with the council’s legal representatives.
Veteran market trader Gordon Smith said: “The surveyor has been comparing our market rents with others around the country, and they look favourable to us.
“Our legal representatives are in talks with the council.
“We accept that the rents will go up, but we are trying to negotiate a reduction on this increase. We are just waiting to see what happens, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the case ended up in court.”
Like many other traders, Mr Smith feels the current proposed increase is too much and he is considering retirement.
He said: “I just will not be able to afford the new rents. A lot of traders are in the same position as me.
“If they institute the increases at the levels they have proposed this could result in the death of the indoor market.
“This will be a huge loss to the town.The market pulls in a lot of shoppers for the High Street, so it supports the local economy.
“Mexborough is a historic market town, there has been one here in some format for over 800 years.”
More than 4,000 people have signed a petition backing the traders’ fight for fair rents, and Labour leader Ed Miliband has also called for the council to re-think their plans.
Peter Dale, the council’s director of regeneration, said many traders “have been paying as little as £2.50 a day.”
He added that Doncaster Council was tied into paying thousands of pounds in rent for the market each year.
Mr Dale said: “Last year, the taxpayer had to make up around a £200,000 shortfall and due to the economic climate this cannot continue. The mayor has said he is open to alternative suggestions as to how savings can be accompanied in this area.”
The council added that Mexborough councillors agreed to the increase in 2010.