By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter
The plight of traders at Nottingham’s Victoria Centre Market has been branded “shocking” by the Government as business owners remain in limbo over its future 18 months on.
Last year Nottingham City Council said it may bring an end to the lease on the market in a bid to save £39m over 50 years.
But while council reports are expected to recommend its closure, a final decision has not been made a year and a half after the plan was first made public.
The market opened in the shopping centre upon its completion in 1972 and was once home to more than 200 stalls.
Today just 31 traders remain.
The council says it has been running the market at an annual trading loss since 2014, and has been forced to subsidise it at a cost of more than £1.5m.
During business questions in the House of Commons on March 16, Gedling’s Conservative MP, Tom Randall, raised the concerns of a constituent who runs a stall in the market.
Rajesh Dhingra, the co-owner of Mona’s Beauty Bar, said he had contacted Mr Randall having been left in “limbo” for the past 18 months.
Mr Dhingra told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The longer this goes on, the more damage will be done.
“[The council] brought in a consultant but we have not really had any talks.
“Initially we were told they were going to help us relocate and support us with any loss of profits for five years.
“Then in early February we were sent a surrender letter with a menial compensation amount.
“The amount does not cover the costs of relocating. If we are relocating it is going to cost a significant amount.
“We are going to lose business if we relocate because we have been here for 15 years.
“They said they were going to help us with all of that, but all of that in the end has been thrown to the wind.
“At the moment we cannot make any business decisions. Our staff have mortgages and kids, but we cannot give them an answer.
“They are putting our lives on hold.”
In the House of Commons Mr Randall said: “May we have time to debate Labour-run Nottingham City Council’s handling of the Victoria Centre Market?
“My constituent contacted me in February last year about the effect the uncertainty is having on his business and other traders.
“And over a year later they are no further forward with a suspicion that the market is being deliberately run down with the view to selling it off.
“In the words of one trader Nottingham City Council didn’t do a good job of running the market and are doing an even worse job at closing it down.
“I’ve not had responses to my recent emails to Nottingham City Council, would my right honourable friend agree with me the council shouldn’t be able to run down the market as a way of trying to avoid paying proper compensation to store holders?”
Responding, Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt said: “That is a shocking situation.
“We very much value markets, which is why we want to support them, which is why we made a permitted development right that enables markets to be held… on behalf of local authorities to be operational for an unlimited number of days and putting that on a permanent fixture.
“It is a shocking situation that there is a lack of clarity around what is happening for stall holders.
“They want to be able to plan, to plan what they are doing next, if the market is going to be shut down and if that is the case they should be paid a fair rate.”
While Mr Dhingra said the compensation offered to him was “menial”, another trader recently revealed it had been enough to make a start.
However the exact details are confidential and a final decision is yet to be made.
In a recent update during Full Council on March 7, Councillor Rebecca Langton, the portfolio holder for skills, economic growth and development, said: “I acknowledge that this is a challenging time for traders at Victoria Centre Market and I give my assurance that I will work with officers to conclude this as quickly as possible, keeping traders informed.
“An in-principle has been reached with the vast majority of market traders.
“We are now reviewing the full costs of exiting from the market. Should a decision be made to close the market, a new timescale will be drawn up and relevant compensation will be completed in line with that timescale.
“We are reviewing this position actively and we will be able to update traders and members when we have concluded this assessment and confirmed our next steps very shortly.”