Published: 11:57, 07 April 2020
| Updated: 14:48, 07 April 2020
Canterbury Cathedral has frozen rent for its tenants - two weeks after stating such action would "risk bankruptcy".
As a landlord for more than 60 properties in Canterbury city centre, the Cathedral's Dean and Chapter says it has chosen to "shoulder greater financial risk" by waiving rent demands for two months.
The U-turn comes at a time when bosses at the world famous landmark say it is "not immune to significant financial threats" and has had to furlough almost 90% of its staff.
With lockdown rules in place, ticket sales are non-existent and money made from selling merchandise has completely dried up.
It left the Cathedral - which does not receive any financial support from the Church of England or English Heritage - originally reluctant to offer rent holidays to tenants.
But having "listened to the concerns" of tenants who feared they would not be able to financially cope, it reconsidered its position.
A spokesman said: "While the substantial ongoing loss of visitor and retail income due to the coronavirus pandemic means that the Cathedral cannot afford to waive commercial rents for a lengthy period, with an extension of the UK’s unprecedented social distancing measures likely, and in recognition that the government’s financial relief measures are yet to benefit businesses, the Cathedral has listened to the concerns of its commercial tenants and expanded the package of support offered.
"This support will now include a rent concession of two months’ rent-free from the current quarter date of March 25.
"This money will not need to be paid back by tenants and is not deferred. At the end of the two months, tenants with deposits can use their deposit to pay the third month’s rent.
"The Cathedral is entirely financially independent and after four months of sharply declining income and with no other income likely in the months to come, we have had to make a number of tough decisions.
"We have cut every level of expenditure possible and, as of last week, furloughed nearly 90% of our workforce. We will continue to constantly review our financial position. As with all local businesses, the Cathedral is not immune to the significant financial threats caused by this outbreak, and it is essential that we can reopen at the earliest possible time.
"Despite this difficult position, the Cathedral has chosen to shoulder greater financial risk to help support our tenants in the belief that, as a Unesco World Heritage Site and global tourist destination, we will be able to once again attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city once the pandemic eases."
The news will come as a relief to tenants in the Burgate and Sun Street areas of the city.
Pork and Co took to social media a fortnight ago to stress how the then-continued rents would force the company out of business.
But now, for two months at least, the pressure has been somewhat eased.