Lifeline Northampton community shops face freehold prices of up to £400,000 if they want to buy their own shops

One store has been serving their community for 20 years - but now they face finding £400,000

Thursday, 24th September 2020, 8:24 am
Northampton's community shopowners have been offered the freeholds to their stores for what they have called 'extortionate' prices.

More than a dozen shopkeepers serving the communities of east Northampton are afraid they face either paying hundreds of thousands of pounds to buy their stores or face them going on the open market to new owners.

In March, the borough council announced a plan to dispose of over a dozen shops by selling the freeholds to their shopowners at market value or else auction them off.

But now, the families behind the 14 local shops around Blackthorn, Ecton Brook and Goldings say they have been quoted prices of hundreds of thousands of pounds if they want to buy their store.

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Danny Patel and his family have been at their store for more than 20 years - but have been quoted an eye-watering £400,000 if they want to carry on.

In one case, a family who has paid their rent for more than 20 years and are at the heart of their neighbourhood has been quoted £400,000 to buy their own business or watch it go to market.

And, any shopowners who want to carry on renting their stores say they could see their annual rates double or even triple - in one case from £10,000 to £30,000pa.

The borough council used an independent assessor to evaluate the market value of the stores. It also says all of the buildings are protected by covenant as community shops and the tenants hold secure leases.

But it is the uncertainty of the future that has concerned shopkeepers and what may happen under new owners on rent costs if they cannot find the money to buy the freehold.

The shops listed by the borough council for disposal.

Danny Patel says he has asked to find £400,000 if he wants to buy the freehold for his Londis in Walledwell Court, Standen Barn.

For comparison, the freehold for the Five Lads restaurant on Bridge Street in Northampton town centre is currently on sale for £350,000.

Danny said: "I want to buy the store, I really do. But we cannot pay these prices.

"I need this place. I have been here 20 years and it's the only income. I've got. My plan in five years was to sell it for my pension. I don't know what I'm going to do.

Bipen Patel says the prices shopowners have been quoted are closer to London prices, let alone Northampton high street rates.

"I've already borrowed nearly £200,000 from the bank for refurbishments. I cannot ask for another loan to buy the freehold."

Nearly all of the 14 units earmarked for disposal by the council are within 10 minutes of the Tesco superstore at Weston Favell.

Kiran Patel runs the Southfields Supermarket off Farmhill Road. His shop is accessed between two cul-de-sacs and has no passing trade - yet he has been quoted £297,000 if he wants to carry on making a living there.

"It's like they've calculated me in a high street position," said Kiran. "I would have thought they would have considered the rent I've paid over 25 years.

The council says it will consider shopowners' independent evaluations in the auctioning process if they can present them.

"It's been through sheer loyalty of my customers who stick with me that I've managed at all."

Other shopkeepers affected include Bipin Patel, who runs the Ecton Brook Post Office and spent £500,000 of his own money to renovate his neighbouring community centre, and Rona Karavadra, whose family has run the shop at Blackthorn Bridge Court for 46 years.

Additionally, every shopowner the Chronicle & Echo spoke to said they had inquired about buying the freehold themselves in the past five years.

Cabinet member of regeneration and enterprise Tim Hadland said in a statement: "We continue to have positive discussions with them to try and reach a mutually beneficial agreement, and all negotiations are conditional on the properties remaining as community shops.

“All tenants will receive further information on the process of the sale and this will set out that they are entitled to get their own advice and valuations which we will consider as part of the sales process.”

However, there are fears among the shopowners of eastern Northampton they will only be able to watch as developers buy their stores at auction and knock them down for flats.

Ward councillor for Talavera Dennis Meredith said: "I would expect the council to give these shopowners a proper discount. If you give them the opportunity they will spend the money to develop their shops for their communities.

"Whatever happens, they have to keep these shops open as facilities. If they close them, many people - especially the elderly - would be severely isolated and I don't think the council would go that far."

Meanwhile, former MP for Northampton North Sally Keeble has launched a petition calling on the council to support the shops.