It’s not just closing of a popular shop in March that has upset residents but the rent being asked of any possible new tenant – £40,000 a year plus VAT.
“Bloody hell, no one will go in, that’s £40,000 worth of profit from a business needed to pay that rent …no chance in town centre,” was typical of many comments on the aptly named ‘Save March’ Facebook page.
Another chipped in: “It astonishes me that the landlord thinks that’s a viable rent for a retail business in March.
“I paid £25k for an admittedly smaller shop but on Kings Parade, directly opposite Kings College, Cambridge, with a passing footfall in the millions, and wealthy tourists too.”
The shop that is closing is QD Stores (Quality Discounts) with the company saying it has “become no longer viable for us to keep open”. It will close in May.
Karl Ottolangui, QD group operations director, said: “Sales have continued to dwindle due to a significant decrease in footfall in the town centre and, therefore, we have had to take the very difficult decision to close the store.”
Many traders feel rents – plus the scale of works now under way as part of a multi-million-pound regeneration scheme – threaten the town.
Residents, in growing numbers agree, with nearly 2,000 signatures for example of a petition to stop the iconic March fountain being moved to a new paved area outside Mallett’s jewellers.
Advertising the £40,000 a year empty shop may be a challenge for the agents, although it is a spacious area of some 2,782 sq. ft*
However new tenants can expect a hefty rates bill, too.
Agents say: “We understand from internet enquiries made from the VOA website that the property has a current rateable value of £17,750 (2023 assessment).
“For the year commencing 1 April 2023, rates will normally be charged at 51.2p in the pound if the RV is £51,000 or more, and 49.9p if the RV is below £51,000.”
The agents are doing a good job of ‘selling March’ pointing out it has a good town centre location, is close to us and rail links, and a “high footfall location”.
They also add a list of shops nearby – including Nat West bank.
Unfortunately, Nat West has put its March branch on a new hit list and is to shut on July 25.
The bank wrote to customers to explain that “closing a branch is a difficult decision and not one that we take lightly.
“We understand that this branch closure may be challenging for many, and we’re working hard to help prepare our customers, and our colleagues, for the closure.”
There was some good news for residents today, however, as the weekly market returned to its traditional spot outside the town hall following car park re-surfacing and re modelling.
“The 12-week project, which started on 9 January, completed on time despite final resurfacing works being delayed by wet weather and cold overnight conditions,” said a spokesperson for Fenland District Council.
The Wednesday and Saturday markets have been temporarily held in City Road car park while the work has taken place.
The council says that all programmed refurbishment works have been completed including:
- New sandstone and cobbled paving, including levelling and widening of paved surfaces adjacent to the Town Hall to offer an enhanced public realm space.
- Re-lining and re-tarmacking of the car park.
- Significant upgrade to underground drainage systems.
- Improved car park layout with wider bays to accommodate more modern, larger vehicles.
- Installation of underground EV infrastructure for future Electric Vehicle charging points, reducing the need for future works.
- New traffic control bollards for use on market days.
- Installation of new, high quality public street furniture including benches.
The spokesperson added: “The Market Place’s existing three disabled bays have been retained but moved to the western side of the Market Place, and the car parking spaces have been reduced to 23 spaces to accommodate larger vehicles and reduce the risk of collisions.
“The refurbishment and repainting of existing street furniture, including bollards, signs and banner arms, is due to be carried out shortly.”
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