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The University is currently in the process of reviewing tenancy terms for eight businesses on campus, as well reviewing rents for a number of businesses mid-way through their lease. The University will not confirm which shops are affected, but SCAN can reveal that Spar, Waterstone’s and Pizzetta Republic are among them.
In 1997 a number of business units on campus were let below market value on a ten year lease. As these leases are now due for renewal, the University plans to bring rent charges for these units back in line with market value.
The proposed rent hike follows a valuation by independent property advisers CB Richard Ellis, who reported that a number of units are still being let well below market value – in some cases at half the going rate. According to the valuation, if those businesses were to look for a comparable unit elsewhere they would be charged up to double the rent they currently pay.
However, lower business rents mean some of the smaller business on campus can provide their goods and services to students at more affordable prices. A massive increase in overheads for businesses could see this cost passed onto students through prices. In a time of already increased financial pressure this change is going to pull on the purse strings of both the businesses and its customers.
The University’s proposed rent increase, which for some units is in excess of 100%, has many campus shop owners and managers worried for the future of their businesses. Shops such as Spar, Robinson’s Newsagent and Waterstones have been hit hard by the news of this unprecedented increase in commercial rent. John Rose, Manager of Spar and trader on campus for the last 28years, says he feels annoyed and worried by the situation, although he assures SCAN that Spar will continue trading. Robinson’s Newsagent on Alexandra Square is facing an 83% rent increase, from £12,000 to £22,000.
The University have issued a statement attempting to allay fears of closures: “[The University] is committed to ensuring students, staff and visitors have access to a diverse range of retail choice on campus and has developed a retail strategy to ensure that continues to be the case.” In an attempt to justify the increase they claim to have valued the retail estate appropriately and taken professional advice, allowing the University to maximise its returns and channel investment into other facilities for staff and students.
All relevant businesses have been contacted and meetings with some tenants are underway. The negotiation process is ongoing, with some of the negotiations being arbitrated by the Courts. For the moment neither the University or business owners are willing to comment on whether any settlement has been made.