TRADERS in Summertown say their future is under threat after their rents almost doubled.

Already three businesses have closed in one section of Banbury Road, with the remaining tenants being asked for tens of thousands of pounds to stay in business following the rent increase.

Hugh Howe, of Lyster Hair Design, said: “Good businesses will close down. Even though they are doing well, they are not making any money.”

Mr Howe, who has worked in Summertown for 17 years, added: “I don’t think independent businesses can afford to pay any more. Now is the time to walk away.”

Justin Brookes, owner of parcel shippers Mail Boxes Etc, which employs five people, said his rent was set to rise from £22,000 a year to £43,500.

He said the arrival of national operators such as Marks & Spencer, coffee shops Starbucks and Costa Coffee and off-licence Majestic Wines was a major reason for the rent increases, which were squeezing out small local traders.

Businesses which have shut include copier dealer Soho Systems, the Queen of Hearts bakery and Blockbuster.

Oxfordshire County Council is set to complete a multi-million pound scheme to improve road safety and ease traffic congestion in the area.

Mr Brookes added: “The trouble is that while our turnover may have gone up 15 per cent in five years, our rent is doubling.”

Bilal Hijazi, owner of the Greek Taverna, which has been open for 25 years and employs six people, said his rent was set to increase from £25,250 to £49,000. “In the current economic climate there is no chance of me paying even £25,250 and this is not the right time to commit to any increase in rent.”

The businesses are now contesting the proposed rent increase with several landlords, including the Electricity Supply Pension Scheme.

Richard Venables, director of VSL & Partners, marketing agent for the scheme, said: “The rent increases reflect the changing face of Summertown and are not being plucked out of the air.” He said well-known high street names were looking to come in.

“It all emanates from Marks & Spencer arriving, which changed the dynamics of Summertown but what is happening is no different to any other high street.”