Rent rise shock for inner city Leeds traders

13 March 2015 .......  Heather Nelson chief exec of BHI on Chapeltown Road and Coun Mohammed Rafique with disgruntled businesses upset by massive rent increases by their landlord Unity.  TJ100752d Picture Tony Johnson
13 March 2015 ....... Heather Nelson chief exec of BHI on Chapeltown Road and Coun Mohammed Rafique with disgruntled businesses upset by massive rent increases by their landlord Unity. TJ100752d Picture Tony Johnson
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BUSINESSES in inner city Leeds claim shock rent rises on their premises are ‘unfair and impossible’.

The Leeds Black Health Initiative, a charity in Chapeltown, is one of three premises at the Chapeltown Enterprise Centre which has been told their rent will almost double, by landlords Unity Housing.

We have been overwhelmed by a surge of support from the community over this.

Heather Nelson, chief executive at BHI

Heather Nelson, chief executive at BHI, which promotes health awareness and access for black and minority ethnic people, says they support thousands of people each year and are situated at the heart of the community they serve.

Ms Nelson said: “We have been overwhelmed by a surge of support from the community over this. People have been talking about demonstrating.

“We are very surprised to hear that our rent will almost double. We have been at this site for six years and with Unity for 20 years.

“We do not even have an up to date lease from Unity and are trying to negotiate a rent which is affordable. We are small local charity which has to bid for funding. The high rise is unfair and impossible.

“We are seeking legal advice.”

But landlords Unity Housing, says a recent refurbishment, means the rented premises have been improved and increases are ‘necessary’.

Parveen Sidhu, operations director of Unity Housing, said: “The Chapeltown Enterprise Centre was part of a £1.4m refurbishment programme completed in 2014.

“The offices used by Black Health Initiative (BHI) benefited from this and they, along with the rest of our tenants, now enjoy a massively improved working environment. The refurbishment was match funded by ourselves and the European Regional Development Fund.

“This is a much needed and welcome investment for the local area.

“The recent rent increases have been necessary to make Unity Enterprise financially viable having been in deficit for a number of years. Although any rent increase is regrettable the rent levels overall have been kept low and are still competitive.

“BHI have been offered a new lease reflecting the total accommodation used.”

Other premises including Michael Koumbouzis of the Scagliola stonework company and trader Gary Hendrickson have also voiced concerns about the hefty rises.

Trader Mr Koumbouzis, who has been at the premises since 1987, with his specialist stonework company Scagliola, said: “I feel Unity Housing have pushed me out with their actions and attitude. I am the oldest tenant and I have never refused to pay rent or been in arrears.

“They have restricted my access through my back door (the reason why I got the unit in the first place, as I often construct large objects and need access), down to a gap measuring 77cm wide.

“I find that they pontificate on their website about helping the community and boosting local business, but in reality they do not.

“I am seeking an alternative workshop as I can no longer function here.”

Cori Braham.

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