The owner of one of Corby Old Village’s most popular independent shops has been stunned by a change to her tenancy.
Gaye Henry, who runs quirky boutique Much Loved in High Street, was told by landlord Corby Council to accept and sign the new lease or get out.
But now she has been given 41 days’ notice to quit.
Selling an eclectic range of furniture, giftware and Italian fashion, the chic shop also hosts art and upholstery workshops.
She employs one member of staff and partners charity Home Start in its ‘Home Wasn’t Built in a Day’ initiative, regularly running workshops for them, their volunteers and their clients.
Gaye has run her successful business for five and a half years from the Grade II listed building but was informed by the council that it would be ‘actively marketing’ the premises.
She initially signed to rent the shop for four years, after which she leased the large ground floor on a rolling basis.
An email from the council to Gaye said: “It is our intention is to actively market the property as a whole with a view to securing new terms ASAP.
“You are welcome to put forward a formal offer and this will be considered together with any other offers received.
“You will not be afforded a right of first refusal and all offers received will be considered on their own merit.”
A distraught Gaye said: “I do not want to move. Much Loved has been here for five and a half years.
“We took on the building which was in a very neglected state and put a lot of time, effort and money into getting it fit for use.
“I currently rent only the ground floor but the council now want any new lease to start in October to include the whole of the building and are raising the rent significantly.
“When the premises were recently inspected, the council indicated that the lease would most likely rise around 20 per cent and the extra rooms upstairs could be added at not a great deal more as they have very limited function and marketability - under those renewed circumstances I said I would like to renew my lease forthwith.
“But the lease has gone out publicly to general bids, with no preference being shown to the current tenant, at a whopping 47 per cent increase, and they have introduced a full repairing clause which means that a new tenant will have to be responsible for all aspects of maintenance and repair of the interior and exterior of this listed building which has so many already known issues.
“Being responsible for everything in this building is a recipe for bankruptcy.”
Gaye’s tenure has been dogged by many challenges. She says:
•There was huge disruption while Anglian Water had to dig up and replace all the lead pipes outside and within the building. During that time they also discovered a considerable long term water leak which also had to be repaired.
Gaye says that the long-term leak caused her water bill to be “ridiculously high” – however, she cannot dispute the bill as she is not the owner of the property.
• Massive disruption when the ancient and inefficient boiler was eventually replaced leaving a huge amount of eye-level, ugly, unboxed copper piping.
• A fire in strip lighting (installed before her tenancy) caused by electrical installation on wood.
• The shop had been left in an empty and neglected state for some years before Gaye moved in. She restored the redecorated the premises.
Gaye added: “We have, as have all the businesses in the Old Village, struggled enormously throughout the unexpectedly long period that the Old Village was cut off from Corby by the year-long main road closure and diversions imposed to avoid the Old Village.
“Some businesses simply could not survive that disastrous time and not one business has received the compensation that British Rail said could be forthcoming.
“I have regularly and without fail paid my rent in a timely fashion to the payment windows in The Cube.
“Much Loved’s closure would be a great loss to the Old Village and the community - our customers bring additional business to the Old Village.
“The clearing-out of the contents of my shop to leave fills me with dread.”
A Corby Council spokesman said: “Due to the contractual nature of this matter we are unable to comment on the statements made by the tenant.
“We can confirm the council has sought to work with the tenant to resolve a number of issues.”