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Fears of empty stalls over Walsall market rent rise

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A hike in rent for stallholders at the 800-year-old Walsall market will create empty spaces, the chairman of the town's Market Traders Association warned today.

moreTony Larner has warned the £5-a-day rent increase, which will come into force in April, will have an impact on the look of the popular market.

Mr Larner said: "At the moment, we have got a good market. If it affects traders financially and they can't afford to run, they will find an alternative market or have to pack up, we are no different to shops.

"I would say it is going to create a few empty spaces. It could be counter-productive and cost the council money."

Mr Larner said a number of traders had complained about the rent increase, approved as part of plans to help save more than £13 million in the next year.

He added: "Nobody is happy about it, we have had lots of complaints from traders.

"The market could look half empty."

Walsall Council announced plans to raise rents at the 98 stalls last year.

Rent currently varies from £20 to £40 with 65 paying the higher tariff.

Council bosses say stall rents have not increased since 2009 and have been delayed as long as possible, but are consistent with a rise in charges for other services.

Plans were unveiled earlier this year to relocate the town's market to make way for multi-million pound regeneration plans in the town centre.

The town centre's Source of Ingenuity fountain, dubbed the 'Hair in the Square', could be moved to make way for it, under proposals to move the market to The Bridge permanently.

Independent experts have said the best place for the market is a new home on The Bridge pedestrian area and Bradford Street.

It has also emerged the ancient market could trade for an extra day each week to help raise part of the £1.1 million investment said to be needed to help it thrive in a new location.

Initial funding plans suggest that additional income could be raised to repay the cost of the investment over a period of 10 to 15 years.

The rent increase for traders was approved last week.

Until recent times stalls had crammed the old market hill running from High Street, below St Matthew's Church, to Digbeth and Lower Hall Lane, but has shrunk prompting relocation closer to the town centre.

Walsall Council's budget for the year ahead will also see up to 105 jobs axed and public toilets close. It said 70 employees have already registered an interest in voluntary redundancy.

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