A NEWPORT trader has spoken of his fears for the future of the city's market, saying he thinks rents on High Street offer better value for money.

Stephen Reynolds, 43, who runs Toy Army and has been a trader in the market for 16 years, says he pays £6,760 a year to rent a 16ft by 8ft stall.

Across the road, at Slipping Jimmy’s on High Street, he pays £15,000 a year to privately rent the premises for his bar – despite it being 30 times the size of his other business premises.

Mr Reynolds estimates only a handful of the 25 offices at the front of the market are filled and says no units are used upstairs.

Newport Norse - the organisation who run the market on behalf of the local authority - said 62 of the market's 80 downstairs stalls are currently in use.

But Mr Reynolds says he is now considering moving his stall out of the market to a larger unit elsewhere in the city because the council have failed to lower rental rates.

“You go into any other town, they seem to centre everything around the market," he said. "It seems to be the jewel in other towns and cities.

“But we’re an inconvenience the council no longer want. I can understand the financial point of view but, at the end of the day, what are you going to do with the building if there’s no traders?

“I’ll be very, very surprised if the market’s here by Christmas the way things are going.”

Dean Beddis, 51, the owner of Kriminal Records in the market, pays £250 a month for his stall.

He says that although Friars Walk and the return of the buses on High Street have boosted footfall, he worries what will happen if more market traders leave.

“I’ve worked here for 30 years and I’ve been going longer than that as a kid," he added. "It means more to me than just a shop.

“It’s a social hub and part of the community. I’ve not given up hope.”

Longstanding stalls which have closed in recent months - either through retirements or cheaper rents elsewhere - include Love Me Wool, The Welsh Shop, The Pet Shop and Needham’s Fishmongers.

Needham's, which had traded at the market for 56 years, closed due to what it called a "lack of trade".

Robert Needham, 62, said he had seen it coming for a while and said there was a lack of support from the council.

“Once we handed in our notice, nobody from Newport City Council came down to see us to ask us ‘is there anything we can do to help you stay?’," he said.

“It feels like they’ve been told that the days are numbered for food markets.”

Carolyn Fullard, 59, who opened Carina Accessories in the market in August and also runs her own online store, said she felt more could be done to encourage new traders.

“I think it would be great if Newport Norse could encourage new traders by offering a rent free period," she said. "I think that would be a very good gesture on their part.”

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said: “The council offers a wide variety of unit sizes and corresponding prices, inclusive service charges, together with flexible lease length terms.

“The rateable value of shops that front onto city centre streets will also vary considerably from the rateable value of a market stall, which are in the main exempt from rates payments due to the small business rates relief which is beneficial to small businesses.”