Traders at the Market Place Shopping Centre in Burgess Hill have spoken of their devastation after being told to vacate the premises.
Each of the six businesses, some of whom have been there for more than 20 years, have been given notice to leave so the space can be redeveloped for Argos to move in to.
Marcus Pearson, 41, of Starling Close, Burgess Hill, runs a picture framing business in the market. He said he was given just two weeks’ notice to leave.
He said: “I was on a three-year lease with two months notice. This finished in November and we were given a new lease but this was completely different to the last one and we were all very dubious to sign it.
“I decided to sign it being the breadwinner with two young kids. I also had a workshop in the shopping centre before and was given notice to leave that, so I didn’t want to be without my shop.
“I had heard rumours of Argos coming in and that the butchers was being relocated within the shopping centre, so I knew it was a matter of time.
This area is a massive part of the town and we have just been treated as a unit.Lisa Watling, who runs LJ’s Café
“But when I tried to get some answers I couldn’t get any, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to be told to leave or not.
“I decided to hand my notice in to to make sure I got my two months’ notice but the next day I was told to leave in two weeks. I was absolutely devastated.”
Fortunately for Marcus he has another two units in the shopping centre. He is now going to use one for his retail shop and has given the other to LJ’s Café, who has been given eight weeks to leave its premises in the market.
Lisa Watling, 43, of Bramber Way, Burgess Hill, has ran LJ’s Café with her mum Karen for 15 years.
She said: “I phoned mum crying when I found out, I felt like it was an end of an era. My first thought was my staff and all of my regular customers. I was in tears, it is my little baby here.
“Marcus was using Cafe Nazar for storage and also has a retail shop a few doors down, but he was kind enough to let us have Cafe Nazar and we helped him move his stock next door.
“We have signed a six-month lease but we are hoping for longer in there.
“Our landlords have not done anything to help us out or offered us anything, we have had to find our own way.
“This area is a massive part of the town and we have just been treated as a unit, I feel disappointed.
“I have a young man called Mikey who has Down’s syndrome that helps out once a week in the cafe hes been with me for about five years and I have seen him come on leaps and bounds with his confidence and work skills and all the customers love him.”
Lisa’s mum Karen, 61, of Leylands Road, Burgess Hill, said when she and Lisa heard Argos was moving in they could not get any answers.
They also decided against signing the new lease as it would have ‘removed all of their rights’.
Jo Stone, 44, of The Hawthorns, Burgess Hill, runs Boomerang barber shop in the market. She was given two weeks’ notice to leave. She is fortunately moving in to a unit next door to LJ’s Café’s new premises.
She said: “Because of the short amount of time we have been here, they don’t owe us any loyalty, and I was never meant to stay here long anyway, but I feel sorry for other traders and seeing how it works here I can’t believe that the management have treated people like this.”
Resident Hilary Sharpe, who has lived in the town for 63 years, said she felt ‘upset for the traders’: “I think it is ripping the heart out of the town. The community feels let down, we lost the outdoor market and now we are losing this. We are losing the town’s individuality.”
Resident Lyn Baines, who has lived in the town for 51 years, said the market was for older members of the community who will now ‘miss out’: “It is upsetting to see, I agree that the town needs updating, but at the cost of this? No. Why pick on the little ones?”
Since speaking to traders at the Market Place Shopping Centre the Middy has spoken to Argos which has confirmed it is moving into the site.
A spokesman said: “We can confirm our Burgess Hill store is relocating to the Market Place Shopping Centre. This is so redevelopment work can take place at the Martlets Shopping Centre.”
The Middy also approached management at the Market Place Shopping Centre.
Manager Andrew Harvey said: “A new tenant will be opening in Market Place in the near future and, after lengthy consideration by the centre’s landlord, the decision has been made to locate the new retailer in the space currently occupied by the market.
“We will be working with those traders directly affected by this change and providing any support that we can.”
A spokesman for NewRiver REIT confirmed it was in discussions with traders to ‘explore possible opportunities for them to move in the Martlets’.
They said: “NewRiver has been liaising with some of the existing retailers who are planning to leave Market Place to explore possible opportunities for them in the Martlets Centre.
“These discussions are ongoing and we will continue to discuss all appropriate options with traders.”
News of the market closure has created reaction in the town.
Signposts, a charity based in The Old Post Office Resource Centre, which supports adults with learning disabilities, said it was ‘extremely sorry to hear of the closure’ of LJ’s Café.
A spokesman said: “Signposts is extremely sorry to hear of the closure of LJ’s Café to make way for Argos – what a shock.
“LJ’s Café has not just been simply a business but a great community hub for so many.
“The staff there are friendly to all and it is a welcoming place for the vulnerable people of our community that we support.
“LJ’s employ someone with a learning disability and offer a safe place for those who might need it.
“We are pleased that LJ’s have found new premises and we will continue to support them there but it is a shame that the community will lose a central, welcoming and safe hub for all.”
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