WORRIED Queensgate Market traders are poised to take Kirklees Council to court in a row over rents.
Thirteen stalls in Queensgate Market are already shut and anxious traders fear many more will follow as rents are set to rise a whopping 9.3% over the next three years.
Now they are even prepared to spend up to £20,000 as a group on court action in a bid to stop the rent hikes and save their stalls.
They are looking to sue the council under the Landlord and Tenant Act, claiming they are not being offered a fair rent.
They will also oppose terms and conditions of a new lease giving the council the power to close their shops during refurbishments.
Granville Pearson, chairman of the Queensgate Market Traders’ Association, is worried more traders will go under during the deep recession.
He said court action could be taken before the current lease runs out on September 11.
Mr Pearson said: “Unless the council changes its mind and comes back to the table with another offer, we will go ahead with court action.
“Trade has declined. There are empty shops all over town and there are empty stalls and shops all over the market.
“This would suggest that rents are too high but the council want to increase the rents.”
The Linthwaite man said the market traders had already taken the council to court three times in the past 40 years.
Court costs could mount to £20,000, but Mr Pearson said most of the shopkeepers were supporting the move.
The former market greengrocer, who has retained his traders’ role, said: “It’s worth taking the risk. The money can be recouped from a better settlement.
“If we didn’t think we had a good chance we wouldn’t be taking the action.”
Mr Pearson said the council proposes to increase rents by 3% starting from September 2010.
He said there would then be a further two increases in 2011 and 2012, with a 9.3% increase in the three years.
He said: “The council are offering different terms and an increased rent.
“And there is a clause that gives them the ability to wriggle out of the lease.
“Just in case they get some money to start refurbishing the market, they want to be able to shut some people down or move them while they do the work.
“That would lead to instability and insecurity within the market.
“And I don’t believe in the present climate the refurbishments are even going to happen.”
Kirklees Council this year pledged to pump over £1m into the 1970s town centre market.
A council spokesman said: “We are still in negotiations on leases and the proposal has been made for a staggered rent rise with no increase for the first year.
“We are committed to repair and refurbishment at Queensgate to the tune of £1.4m and would need tenants to work with us to achieve this.”