SHOPKEEPERS are uncertain what the future holds after Chichester District Council became their new landlords.
The council has bought ten shops on Crane Street in what it said was a better investment than savings in the current economic climate.
The council is also looking for acquisitions that have some benefit or interest to the local communityChichester District Council spokeswoman
The shops include Marlin Kitchens, SKE Shoe Repairs, Chichester Office Supplies and Shake-A-Delic!
The council is not revealing how much it paid for the units, saying it was ‘confidential information’.
Robert Davies, owner of SKE Shoe Repairs, in Crane Street, said: “We don’t know what to make of it and what changes are going to be made.
“I think they’re going to try to put a maintenance charge on, which is the first time that’s happened in 24 years that we’ve been here.”
The family business has traded in Chichester for 36 years, previously in the Butter Market before moving to Crane Street.
“They’ve not really said what they’re going to do yet,” said Mr Davies.
He said something needed to be done to entice more shoppers down the street.
“It used to be such a good street for independent traders,” he said.
Lynn Brown, from Marlin Kitchens, said: “It’s early days yet. They’ve only just taken it on so it’s very difficult to comment. It could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing. Hopefully it will work out well.”
A spokeswoman from Chichester District Council confirmed the council completed the purchase two weeks ago.
“With bank interests so low, Chichester District Council is seeking to invest capital in property which produces a better rate of return than savings,” she said. “As part of this, the council is also looking for acquisitions that have some benefit or interest to the local community.”
She confirmed that improvement works would also take place.
“The council also felt this was an opportunity to work with the occupiers as well as members of the Business Improvement District (BID) to try to bring about some improvements to these properties for the benefit of the city,” she said.
“The BID has arranged for a series of improvement works to be carried which are already under way.”
Mr Davies also said the council would now be charging VAT to the businesses.
He said they would be able to claim it back – providing they were VAT-registered – however they still had to provide the additional cost up front.
The council’s spokeswoman said: “The council has decided to charge VAT so that we can recover any VAT we incur on the premises. The businesses located in these properties are VAT-registered so it means they can recover this cost.”