Bath's biggest landlords charging 'sky high rents', claim independent traders
The city’s biggest landlords have been accused of charging “sky high rents” which deter independent traders.
But Bath and North East Somerset Council and the St John’s Hospital charity have rejected the criticism.
Businessman David Gledhill, of the Bath branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, has welcomed new efforts by city centre traders to highlight the importance of independent firms.
But he said: “It has long been a concern that independents are losing out in Bath, and given the sky high rents charged by two of the biggest landlords – B&NES and St John’s, it comes as no surprise.
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“It is no use hiding behind the fact that there are companies queuing to come here – they are not the type of business that makes Bath special, they are the type of businesses that can be found on high streets up and down the country. It really is time this coun cil made an effort on behalf of independents – most of whom are local residents as well and stop hiding behind the rather spurious argument that rents have to maximised, no matter what. It is time to support local businesses, not milk them.”
B&NES said that in the last year, 20 of the 24 new leases it signed were with independent traders. The local authority owns 229 properties in Bath, of which only nine are empty.
A spokesman said: “The council considers market evidence when establishing a guide rent for letting purposes. Offers are then invited from potential tenants. We do not state the rents are non-negotiable. As a result of this approach there is strong demand for our premises in Bath.”
St John’s Hospital is responsible for 65 properties in the city centre and chief executive, Jonathan O’Shea, said money raised through rents was put back into the city through the charity’s work.
He said: “The reality of it is that we have more than half of our tenants are independent traders. We listen and help develop our independent traders where we can and some people who have started with us have gone into bigger properties as the business has grown.
“We have a lot of tenants that we have had for years and years.”