Covered Market Rents

We are concerned that high rents will irreparably damage the character of the Covered Market

25 April 2012

In the light of concerns about the future of Oxford’s Covered Market raised by the current round of rent increases, our Chairman Peter Thompson has sent the following letter on behalf of the Society to a number of City Councillors.

Dear Councillor

Oxford Covered Market

I am writing on behalf of the Oxford Civic Society to confirm our concern at the apparent threat to the character of the Covered Market, arising from the imposition of rents at levels which are unviable for smaller, local and independent traders.

The Covered Market is a unique and historic place, in a key location at the heart of the city’s commercial centre. It contributes to the commercial success of our city by providing to all its communities a diverse and sometimes unusual range of goods and services, through the accommodation and support of smaller, local and independent traders. It makes a unique contribution to the character of the city, not just through its architecture, but by virtue of what goes on in it, and by the nature of the businesses providing that activity. This contribution to the character of the city is important, not just for the market itself and its traders, but to the vitality of the whole of the retail centre of the city, since the Covered Market attracts footfall from all sectors of the population of visitors to the city centre – residents, business people and tourists alike. It is a beacon of light in the gloom of the ‘clone town’ syndrome which afflicts so many of the country’s cities.

Thus, the Covered Market must be seen as much more than just an income-generating property asset. It is much more important that its character and its contribution to the culture of the city is maintained and enhanced than that it generates for the Council (and that means us, the taxpayers of the city) the highest possible rent which can be squeezed from the tenants. This means that, unlike in the case of most commercial tenancies, it is essential that the nature and mix of the businesses operating from the Covered Market should be considered as a priority, alongside purely financial considerations, when rents are in negotiation. The consideration of the contribution to the city made by any business should be holistic, not just financial.

In the recent past there appears to have been erosion of the principles which would safeguard the character of the Covered Market and ensure the continuity of its contribution to the character, culture and vitality of the city centre. Please could you ensure that the true values of this unique asset to the city are not put at further risk through the short-sighted pursuit of short-term financial advantage in the negotiation of rents.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Thompson, Chairman