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Fruit & veg wholesalers sue Borough Market over rent hikes

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The Guardian reports a legal battle is brewing at London's historic Borough Market in Southwark. Apparently three fruit and vegetable wholesalers have commenced court action against the trustees of the charity that runs the market.

The merchants claim the trustees are trying to force them out to make room for higher-end "delicatessen" retailers. The trustees have reportedly increased rent by 200% and service charges by as much as 500% in some cases.

Andy Sugarman, 51, the chairman of the market's tenants' association and owner of EA Sugarman & Sons, said: "It is easy to speculate what the trustees want to achieve. If the wholesalers were cleared out of the way, there would be a lot of space left open to be filled with fancy retailers."

Another stallholder, Alex Fraser, said that a "culture of fear" hangs over the market. "Stand and stall holders are worried by the way the market is being managed but do not feel they can speak out because they are worried they will be booted off if they do so," he said.

George Nicholson, a former chairman of the trust, has also criticised the trustees. "It is very sad to see the brand tarnished by such wanton stupidity from the current trustees and management. All this was avoidable. The trustees are endangering the market's public purpose and the market has lost its way."

A spokesman for the trust disputes this, however. "A small number of individuals have lost sight of what Borough Market's really about," he told the Guardian.

"To maintain our brand and our obligations, everyone involved with the market needs to live by the highest standards of produce and conduct. In the past that has not always been the case and those people are now squealing when challenged ... But no individual is bigger than the Market -- whatever their past or present role -- and nobody is more important than our customers and our community."

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