Proposed rent increases in Letchworth ‘could close businesses’

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- Credit: Archant

THERE is fear an increase in ground rent for businesses to the tune of thousands of pounds could force some companies to close.

Business owners on the Woodside Industrial Park in Letchworth GC have called for the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation to sit down and talk with them following proposals to significantly increase ground rent.

Dave Poole, who runs Autolube on the industrial park, said: “The annual rent we have all been paying has been a peppercorn rate, but it could go up to about £6,000 or maybe more.

“This is ridiculous. The heritage foundation is not being responsible. We are all trying to support Letchworth GC, and if this rent increase goes ahead it could mean businesses would have to close and there would be job losses.”

Mr Poole, who has been operating from his business in Works Road for about 23 years, claims the 22 business that occupy units on the estate have tried for years to get the heritage foundation to sit down and talk with them but said the body would only talk through solicitors or agents.

“Why are they wasting money on legal fees when they could use that money for things in Letchworth GC and support the businesses that are here trying to survive?” he said.

“We are simply asking them to speak with us. There are enough empty units in the town centre, and it is no surprise that Letchworth is dying because the foundation makes it such a difficult place to work and live.”

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Another business owner, Una Bradwell, said: “We know there needs to be a rent increase but they need to keep it fair and reasonable.

“By demanding an increase of thousands of pounds, it is going against the heritage foundation’s ethos of supporting Letchworth and its people. And in this economic climate we just can’t afford what they are asking for.”

Tim Roxburgh, projects director of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, said: “We have a duty to charge a reasonable market rent as it is this which funds our charitable commitments.

“However, we are always happy to negotiate and to look at particular circumstances. Our agents are in touch with tenants and have indicated they are happy to sit down and talk.”

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