Business bosses have accused council chiefs of turfing them out and putting companies at risk for its own financial gain.
Some firms based in the Marlowes Business Centre are unhappy that, after being told they will have to move out at the end of the year, building owner Dacorum Borough Council has refused to release them from their licences early so that they can avoid the cost of double renting.
The businesses claim that releasing them early would force a budget shortfall on the council’s projections for the building.
The unhappy bosses are also annoyed that they have not been offered any financial compensation for being moved on – one business director estimates it will cost him up to £15,000.
The companies – a total of 23 at the serviced offices – are making way for council staff who will be moving out of the Civic Centre across the road to allow work for a Morrisons supermarket to begin, as part of wider town centre regeneration plans.
David Armstrong from Aztec Marketing said: “It is immoral for a council to make a decision that is detrimental to 23 local companies.”
During a meeting between The Gazette and five of the affected businesses, they said they will move out of the town if they cannot find a suitable town centre alternative. The upset comes at a time when the council is working to pull new business into the borough.
Helen Blackbourn from UK Training Development said: “We are all here because we want to be in a town centre location, it doesn’t leave you many options.”
Council assistant director of planning and regeneration James Doe said: “Regenerating Hemel Hempstead town centre for the prosperity of the borough is a key priority for the council. In the next few years, our plans will see the demolition of the council’s Civic Centre. Naturally this means that we will need to relocate and after considering a number of options, moving into the Marlowes Business Centre provides our council tax payers with the best value for money.
“Supporting local businesses is important to us, which is why we have given the current licensees six months’ notice to vacate, rather than the three months’ notice stipulated in the short-term licences between us as the landlord and our licensees. We have doubled the notice period to give the licensees plenty of time to relocate. We have offered to support the licensees in finding new premises in the area.
“Ultimately, the relationship we have with our licensees is a commercial one. As a local authority, we must strike a balance between supporting local businesses and making sure that we provide value for money to the taxpayer.
“The businesses will be expected to meet their own removal and legal costs rather than this being met from the public purse.”