Victory in fight for bike shop

STAYING PUT: Dave is hopeful he can remain in Birdsfoot Lane
STAYING PUT: Dave is hopeful he can remain in Birdsfoot Lane

The owner of an independent cycle shop in Birdsfoot Lane has been told he can stay put – for a price.

Dave Barford has been battling to stay in the shop he lets from Luton Borough Council since the authority told him earlier this year that he would have to make way for a business that would pay more.

There was public outcry when the Luton News reported that Dave’s business – My Bike Shop – would most likely be replaced by a betting shop.

More than 600 people signed a petition in the shop, and 1,200 signed the Luton News’ Don’t Price Us Out petition, which is campaigning for a rethink of the council’s new rent policy, due to the effect it will have on small businesses and charities.

Dave has now been told that he can stay in the shop, but that his rent will go up by 20 per cent.

“I always knew I would have to pay extra because, let’s face it, rents are going to go up,” he said.

“I don’t think they’re treating me any differently to anyone else.

“They do seem to have backed down on letting me stay here.”

A spokesman for the council said it had proposed new rents to tenants with the aim of reaching an agreement or finding “a new tenant willing to pay that price if not”.

He added: “All tenants, including Mr Barford, can stay where they are as long as they agree to the rent review, sign a new lease and abide by the terms of that lease. No agreement has been reached with Mr Barford but we are still in negotiations with him.”

At a full council meeting last week, Conservative group leader Michael Garrett failed in his bid to force a re-think of the rent review.

Highlighting the fact that one organisation – St Augustine’s scout group – will see its rent go from £150 a year to £8,000 a year, he said: “The one group of people you must not hurt in anyway is youth organisations.

“People will not forget this – what you’re doing is immoral.”

Robin Harris, in charge of finance for the ruling Labour group, said the council was facing a “terrible” budget situation, and that the scouts would be able to apply to the airport’s charity fund for help.

“We have been hit harder than other councils,” he said.

“By 2015 the funding available could be less than the costs of our statutory services. Every non-mandatory service could be wiped out.

“The old approach to rents wasn’t fair or consistent and needs to be put on an even keel. You can’t bury your head in the sand.”

But Lib Dem councillor Peter Chapman said the rent rise for the scouts made the authority “look ridiculous”.

He added: “People will ask what the council is playing at. You’ve got to make some discretionary decisions.”