No rate rebate means Uckfield store must close

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A popular Uckfield housewares store is closing its doors for the last time next week. The business owner said two factors played a part in its closure - Wealden’s refusal to reduce business rates in spite of the fact that the commercial rent had been reduced and the use of Bell Lane as an unofficial car park.

Tom Dancey from insolvency practitioners White Maund told the Express that Macklin Home and Leisure known in the town as Trading,4U, will cease trading from its site in Bell Lane. It is not expected that anyone will come forward to buy the business.

Tom said: “We were appointed on Wednesday last week. The store will continue to trade in the short term. There will be significant discounts on all stock.”

Some staff have already been laid off and it is expected there will be a total of nine redundancies.

Trading4U in Heathfield High Street, founded about 20 years ago, will remain open.

Boss Chris Macklin, who lives in Horam, said: “A number of factors have led to this closure.

It has been a tough two years and this year did not begin any better. We had a slow, poor spring and there has been a series of three bad summers. Heathfield has traded well and it has a first rate High Street location but the Uckfield store is tucked away on a commercial estate which is not a prime shopping location. It’s off the beaten track.

“A lot of things have changed on the estate here. Add to that the fact that it has become a bit of a car park.

“People seem to park here all day to use the railway station and the site has just become unviable to run a business like ours.”

Although plans are afoot to re-open the railway car park, that decision will come too late for Chris.

When trade slowed, Chris approached his landlord who offered a rent reduction. Although business rates are linked by statute to the rent paid by companies, Wealden District Council refused to reduce his rates.

He said: “I spoke to Wealden valuers asking if they could help us by reducing the business rates but they refused.

“When rents go up, the rates rise but they seem unwilling to reduce them when rents go down. A decision like that would have helped us.”

All stock at the Uckfield store has been substantially reduced. Chris said: “The administrators moved in on June 5 and we have been very busy since then. We expect there will still be goods to sell this weekend but the store will almost certainly close early next week.”

The Uckfield store specialised in garden furniture and equipment, kitchen and bathroom ware, furniture for sitting rooms and bedrooms, soft furnishings, gifts, crockery, glassware, cutlery and kitchen equipment.

It specialises in seasonal stock with snow shovels displayed in January and garden tables in June. It was a popular destination for local shoppers.

It is not yet known what will happen to the Uckfield premises.