We'll have to shut if indoor market axed, say Leicester traders
Traders have started a petition to save Leicester's indoor market from demolition.
They fear they will lose their businesses when the 1970s market is flattened. So far, about 200 people have signed their Save the Indoor Market petition.
The market is set to be replaced with a public square, with the fish and meat sellers relocated to a purpose-built pavilion next to the Corn Exchange on what is currently Market Corner.
However, about 30 traders in the upper floors of the five-storey building fear they will not be able to afford the rents in the lock-up units Leicester City Council is proposing to create for them elsewhere in the market.
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Photographer Michael Montgomery, 55, who has run Studio B1 for seven months, is leading the campaign.
He said: "We don't understand the sense in removing a shopping area and replacing it with a big square when you have got shops struggling in the city centre.
"I know the building is not the nicest and we are being told we could move into new units, but we are worried about the price of them."
Mr Montgomery said he pays about £50 a week for his unit.
He said: "We haven't been told officially but the rumour is they could be £300 a week. How can we afford that?
"Getting a shop elsewhere will be too expensive, so most of us will just have to shut.
"A lot of us started these businesses after having been made redundant and we are worried we'll end up back on the dole.
"Here, you have independent businesses all next to each other – an artist, a record shop, a salon and a toy shop. It's such a mix.
"A lot of us could not take our businesses into a lock-up. It just wouldn't work.
"We would like the council to consider building a new market hall, perhaps on one level with a glass roof, where we could go to continue."
Richard Lebutt, who was unemployed and sold his car to set up The Toy Shack, in July, said: "The idea for this place is awful.
"It's heartbreaking. We won't be able to afford the new units so we'll have to close.
"The meat and fish traders get a new building but we are out on our ears. Nobody from the council has been to talk to us."
Vic Lee, of County Yarns Wool Shop, which has been trading for 40 years, said: "We were told 'if you want to carry on, you had best look for somewhere else.
"Twelve months from now, I could go out of business.
"We have looked at retail units elsewhere. The average price is £15,000 to £20,000 a year – and that's just basic rent."
The petition is to be handed to mayor Sir Peter Soulsby.
He said a consultation on the scheme would run until February 22 and that no rates had yet been decided for the replacement units.
"The last thing we would want to do is produce units which kill the trade," he said.
"We are talking to everyone of the traders to find them new homes that suit."