Rent hike forces Station Book Shop’s departure from Lewes Railway Station

Station Bookshop moving, Lewes Train Station. Liz Aitken.
Station Bookshop moving, Lewes Train Station. Liz Aitken.

A newsagents which has been based at Lewes Railway Station for 25 years has been forced to leave due to a rent hike of around 25 per cent.

Liz Aitken, who runs the Lewes Station Bookshop with her husband John, said they would have their last day at the store on Friday May 8 and reopen in a unit opposite the station on Monday May 11.

But Southern said tenants needed to pay the market rent in what was a highly competitive spot.

John, 51, said: “We are not looking for petitions to make us stay. Obviously we have always felt that we weren’t particularly well treated by Southern.

“When it comes to renewing leases they just want more money and that has made things difficult. Thank you to everyone who has supported us.”

Liz explained the lease came up for renewal five years ago and the rent was increased.

She said since then they had struggled with the business and have now decided to move to smaller unit.

Liz and John said less people were using the station car park.

They also thought Southern’s increasing ticket prices were putting people off.

John explained he had seen many of his early morning customers who had decided to take the train from Uckfield instead because they could get a seat and the parking was free. But Southern said passenger footfall at Lewes Railway Station had increased by around two per cent, adding it had no evidence of passengers driving from Lewes to Uckfield.

Liz added: “We are upset. We have been here a long time.

“This is the only way forward because we can’t afford to stay here.

“We have never defaulted on the rent and we have been good tenants.

“A lot of our customers have said they won’t come here if it is a chain.”

A spokesperson for Southern added: “The tenant at Lewes has not been asked to vacate the station, and we believe that the decision to move out of the station into new premises was not made as a result of the notification of an increase in rent.

“We do expect tenants to pay the market rate for their units as retail at all our stations is a highly competitive area where we have many requests for premises whenever they become available, often from local businesses.

“Looking forward, we are keen to encourage local businesses to take on the vacant retail unit, and, once the current tenant has vacated and we have assessed the suitability of the unit, we will begin a tendering process.”