Landlords must help high-street firms start up

Malton has thrived since being repositioned as a food destination.
Malton has thrived since being repositioned as a food destination.
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Commercial Landlords should help high-street businesses start up or risk their properties ending up empty and earning no rental income, a North Yorkshire estate manager has said.

Roddy Bushell of the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, which has helped the town of Malton reinvent itself as a major food destination, also called for an end to unhelpful historic terms such as “landlords” and “tenants”, insisting the relationship should work as a partnership.

He said it is in the interests of the estate, which owns around 60 per cent of the commercial property in Malton, to help entrepreneurs who want to start up food businesses jump through legal hoops and with early costs.

Mr Bushell explained this can help the business owners concentrate on the food, while the estate manages the early administration required.

This approach makes it easier for firms to survive the difficulty early stages of launching on the high street, he said.

“Very often the new tenants are beginners, so they may be very passionate in what they do,” Mr Bushell told the Commons Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee.

“Traditionally landlords would have the property, they’d hand it over to the tenant and say ‘there you go get on with it’.

“Well do you say to someone who is an expert in baking, here’s a property would you like to get it through planning, get this through building consent, get the environmental and health officers’ approval, and agree a contract with a contractor to fit it out - chances are they won’t be very good at that, they are good at baking.”

Mr Bushell said the estate now deals with proposed firms’ planning, environmental health and contract requirements so “the tenant can start doing what they are good at”.

Mr Bushell said landlords have a commercial interest in helping firms in their properties.

“In smaller towns tenants have a lot less resilience if things aren’t going well and a landlord now has to be interested, because if he is not interested he is going to end up without a business paying rent on the property and he may well not have many options for somebody... to take it up,” he said.

“So he knows his real position is he needs to be helpful to that tenant. A landlord and tenant is a partnership by any other name but it’s all trammelled up with a whole lot of historic terminology which is unhelpful.

“One of the problems is it’s called a land ‘lord’, that’s not helpful, tenancy is ‘surrendered’ - it’s a partnership - that stuff needs to be consigned to history.”