Petition launched to save popular Aylesbury business forced to vacate Vale Retail Park
Over 1,500 people have signed the petition.
Fruity Tooty, a family-run Aylesbury business has launched a petition asking for local support to save its business.
The long-running grocery was moved to Vale Retail Park during the pandemic and kept on short leases by the council.
Yesterday (August 1), the business' lease expired after Bucks Council declined to extend the Fruity Tooty's placement within the retail park.
Fruity Tooty's departure from the Vale Retail Park comes at a time when the council is set to welcome a new major retailer to the site.
To accommodate this new retailer the council authorised a £1.8M loan to help the new business set up.
At this time the council hasn't yet revealed the retailer which will takeover three units at the retail park due to a confidentiality agreement.
On Friday Tooty Fruity launched the petition asking its customers to lobby the council to 'save' the business.
At the time of writing the petition which can be accessed here has received 1,593 signatures.
The Bucks Herald has received several letters from readers expressing their disappointment with the council's decision and has been shown letters sent to Council Leader Martin Tett asking him to reverse the decision.
The petition is addressed to the Council Leader and John Chilver the Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources, Property and Assets.
Destini Smith wrote the petition, it says: "For around 30 years my parents have owned the business Fruity Tooty but now the council want to destroy that.
"During the pandemic we were placed in a Unit to help us cope with demand for fruit and Veg boxes during the lockdown (or at least that's what we thought we were being placed in there for).
"It comes to light that the Council only placed us in this large unit so that they did not have to pay their own business rates and it also allowed them to claim additional money from the central government.
"We were put on 3 month rolling contracts and as each came to expiry the Council would just email over that they will extend it again. Until our most recent renewal where they told us to vacate with only 10 days notice!
"We had consistently asked for a longer lease and the Council made it clear that they would put us on a long lease (so we invested heavily) but this never happened.
"We then became aware that the Council are taking a £1.8 million loan out to do up units 1,2 and 3 ready for the major retailer. We were never offered a similar deal.
"We have invested heavily and worked incredibly hard to grow and create our business which is now at risk of being torn apart by the Council.
"Our business plan was always to support new and upcoming small businesses who need that extra exposure and support. We pride ourselves on this! We wanted to give back to the local community and create a self sustaining ecosystem of small businesses, who we hope will flourish and create local jobs for local people. This was our goal but now this dream is in tatters and looks to be destroyed by a Conservative Councillor.
"Please sign and support us in fighting off a Conservative Council intent on destroying home grown local businesses in favor of a major retailer.
"My parents don’t deserve this, they work extremely hard for someone to tell them they aren’t worth it. I thought these people were meant to help us but they don’t, they rather the money. Shame on them. Local business are dying and they want supermarkets instead.
"Fight with us. Stand with the local business and stand against those who lie, destroy and damage business for their gain."
Councillor Chilver released the following statement last Tuesday addressing the eviction. It read: "The Council have supported Fruity Tooty since May last year by providing a short term flexible lease of a unit as a interim measure aiding the Covid effort and the growth of their business.
"Their lease has come to an end and the Council has agreed terms for a long-term commercial tenant for the retail park. The Council's property investment are a crucial source of income which support a wide range of local services across the county, and we need to balance the needs of the residents of Buckinghamshire as a whole.
"We appreciate the crucial role Fruity Tooty have played during the pandemic and the remain a much-loved local business who we want to continue to help and support."
Fruity Tooty dispute this version of events, stating it never thought its move to the retail park was temporary. It claims it was moved to Unit 5 of the retail park so the council could receive extra local business support during the pandemic, rather than to grow Fruity Tooty.
Also Fruity Tooty disputes its need to move considering the new commercial tenant will take over units 1-3 according to the council release. It also claims the councillor has ignored Fruity Tooty's attempts to reach him for over a week.