TRADERS at the Tented Market have told of their shock and disappointment after being given a month to shut up shop and leave as the landmark finally closes its doors.

A letter sent to around ten businesses has informed them that the venue will close on August 31 after more than two decades of providing a home to small businesses.

While the traders were resigned to losing their pitches, several said the time scale and nature of the announcement took them by surprise and has left them scrambling to find new units.

A long-running planning battle ended last year with developers CIP (Leonard Street) Ltd winning an appeal to build restaurants in place of the existing market.

A subsequent amendment to the planning application seeks to build a 12 storey apartment building housing 101 flats.

That part of the proposal is making its way through the council's planning process and a decision is expected imminently.

The letter to traders, sent by Keningtons Chartered Surveyors on Thursday, reads: “We have received instructions from our client with regard to the future of the market and we do need to advise you that the sad decision has been made to cease all trade from these premises.

"We hereby give you Notice under Section 4.1 of our Licence of the termination of this agreement.”

The announcement was met with disappointment among traders who have taken advantage of relatively low rents to have a town centre presence.

One of the businesses which will now have to leave, X-Press Phones, started the day the market launched in 1994.

Owner Steve Singh said: “We’re quite upset because we’ve been here since the day the market opened and we’ve built up a customer base and continually invested in the shop.

“We have about fifteen grand’s worth of stock we don’t know what we’ll do with and our manager will lose his job when he has got a family to support and a mortgage to pay.

“We have not been offered any other alternative unit and a month isn’t long enough to relocate a business that has been built up over a quarter of a century.

“We invested when the market shut down and reopened and we have customers who have been coming back for 20 years to buy phones.

"We didn’t give up easily, even when trade in the market dropped off, but now we’ve been given no alternative. We’re a small trader against companies worth hundreds of millions of pounds.”

Dave Holt, of Vape Ninja, has found premises at 168 Rodbourne Road where he will relocate before the cut-off date.

“Everyone knew it was coming and I have been fortunate to pick up the keys to the new place,” he said. “But for me it means that if someone wakes up in the morning with a business idea they want to start on a budget they will have nowhere to go in the town centre.

"It’s a kick in the teeth to people who want to start up a small business in the future.”

Dillon James, of 12th Dynasty Tattoo Studio, fears he will have no time to move his business to new premises after opening the letter yesterday.

He said: “We all knew it was coming but I was still shocked when I opened the letter, especially when I thought we might have been given until the end of the year, or at least the summer. I feel overwhelmed and disappointed.

A month is cutting it a bit fine to move "a licensed tattoo parlour, especially with the price of rents in the town centre. We’ve fought to the end of the line and I just feel exasperated.”

CIP, who were given a 99-year lease by the council, lodged their plans, which at the time only included four restaurants and a coffee shop, in December 2015. 

The market gradually became more rundown in appearance during the ensuing planning battle with Swindon Borough Council.

But Eggelicious, a toasted wrap bar, showed that the site could still be used as a springboard for small traders after expanding to two other locations, including a new shop in the Brunel Centre which opened on Wednesday.

Owner Ash Mistry said on Facebook: “It is with sadness I have left the Tented Market.

“The market gave me such a great start with very little start-up cost. I hope that in the future Swindon Borough Council can provide a place for budding entrepreneurs.”

No one at Keningtons or NC Architects, who have also acted on behalf of CIP, responded to requests for comment yesterday and the Adver was unable to reach the developer directly.