Shops will close and people will suffer as proposed rent hikes on shops become too much to handle, traders have claimed.
On Tuesday morning, a petition signed by 180 people was handed to Cllr Peter Rayner, the ward councillor for Northfleet North, in protest over plans for The Hive, Northfleet.
It was organised by Sue Ansarie, of College Road, Northfleet.
She said: “I’m part of the Northfleet Big Local and the issue was raised at one of our meetings.
“This lady said that rents were going up and she was asking whether the Big Local, which has been given £1 million to spend in the area over 10 years, could help.
“She said she needed the money as she couldn’t make the payments and subsequently the shop would close.
“We didn’t know about it but questioned why we should be funding something which is Gravesham council’s responsibility.
“In the end, we gave them £2,000 and I set up a petition. People really got behind it.”
Shops at risk in The Hive, just off Northfleet High Street, include the charity KASBAH which has two offices and a charity shop.
Cllr Rayner promised to lodge the petition with the council.
He told the crowd: “I shall ask for a meeting of the relevant officers to decide how the rents will go up. None of this has come to us as local councillors.
“We’ve no special powers but we can make the arguments, and they’re good arguments, because it makes no sense to put the rents up and see the shops close.”
Across the three units occupied by KASBAH, finance officer Julie Appleby said rents were expected to increase by 300%.
She said: “We’ve got to consider whether we can maintain our presence here. The community is extremely supportive and they don’t want to see the charity shop close. It’s not just a shop but it also acts as a meeting place.”
The Happy Shopper could close if rent increases by an expected £2,000 a year.
Manager Yusuf Aydemir said: “The business is very quiet and has been so for the last couple of years. We can’t afford to pay the council the extra rent at the moment, it’s too much.”
Gravesham council leader Cllr John Burden (Lab) said: “The council is in discussion with most tenants at The Hive to bring their leases up to date. This is normal practice.
“Several units were let to two tenants on exceptionally favourable terms some years ago and each has been asked to sign new leases at an open market rent.
“That rent would be between £10 and £12 per day. The council thinks this is reasonable. The tenants are aware that they can discuss this with the council.
“The council has recently been actively marketing other vacant units in The Hive and there is commercial interest in those units for a range of retail and other facilities which will complement and strengthen the mix of uses at The Hive.
“This tends to demonstrate the potential to provide much needed services there.”
You can read more on this story in this week's Gravesend Messenger.
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