Businessman says this is the single biggest threat to Whitefriargate

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 18 Jan 2019

Staggering business rates and shop rents are stopping new traders from opening in Whitefriargate, a prospective new company owner has warned.

Tony Knutsen, director at theme park safety company TK Inspection, said he was interested in launching a secret new business in the city centre but had been shocked by the cost of moving in.

He said units he had looked at in Whitefriargate would have set him back around £90,000 a year in business rates and rent combined, and said with current high street uncertainty, it was a risk many would not be willing to take.

It comes as a raft of shops have left the city centre shopping street in the recent times, with the major blow of Marks and Spencer pulling out of the once busy shopping street.

Ann Summers, Kapow, Grainger Games and Poundworld have all disappeared, with HMV currently in administration.

Mr Knutsen said: “There are empty properties all around the city centre, in particular in Whitefriargate, but the rates and rents are just enormous.

Marks & Spencer is planning to close its city centre store (Huddersfield Examiner)

“You are talking crazy sums of money – around £90,000 per year for rent and rates – and with the economic climate as it is at the moment, it’s just a very big risk.

“It takes a lot of nerve to launch a business at the moment but when you are faced with that sort of cost, it makes it even harder.”

Read more: Hull Council statement confirms Marks and Spencer relocation talks

Business rates are set by the Government and are based on the value of the property.

Mr Knutsen said rent prices were also an issue and also revealed some problems he had encountered with agents for shop units.

Bustling Whitefriargate in 1936 (Hull Daily Mail)

He said: “I’ve actually been finding it quite difficult to arrange viewings and discussions with the agents representing the landlords.

“I’ve sent a lot of requests off via email and in a lot of cases have yet to receive a reply.

“I think landlords need to take a more hands-on approach and make sure they are getting people looking around the empty spaces.”

Watch: The challenge to save Whitefriargate

The director said the quality of shop spaces available was also an issue.

Read more: Willerby 'regret' as caravan manufacturer confirms 'small number' of redundancies

He said when looking through windows of some empty properties, it looked like “a lot of work” would need to be done before it was ready to be moved into.

“At the moment the rents and rates are so high, it is putting people off being in the city centre,” he said.

“The business I have in mind would ideally need to be in the centre but I can see a lot of businesses ending up looking elsewhere."

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