Another of Oxford's independent shops is being forced to close this week after a huge rent increase.

Laurie Leigh and her son David outside the High Street shop they are being forced to leave because of a 40 per cent rent rise

Laurie Leigh, who has run Laurie Leigh Antiques in the High Street for 30 years, is closing her shop tomorrow (Thurs) after being told her rent is going up by 40 per cent.

Mrs Leigh, 73, who runs the antique glass shop with her son David, said: "I am being forced out of here. It is absolutely disgraceful but I can't see a way out. When I found out I was almost in tears."

Mrs Leigh believes Oxford's independent shops are dying out and thinks the city is turning into a clone town and losing its identity.

She said: "You get a small business wanting to start up here and they haven't got a chance. It makes me cry because Oxford has become dreadful. They are driving people's livelihoods away."

After The Queen's College raised her rent from a special concessionary rate of £17,500 to the market rate of more than £23,000, Mrs Leigh twice tried to move to smaller shops.

The deals fell through when, in addition to her rent in arrears, Queen's also demanded three months advance rent, a licence fee for occupation of £440 per week for a month and legal costs.

Mrs Leigh said: "We have been treated appallingly. Our lives have become an utter misery."

Prof Peter Robbins, of the college, said: "I am disappointed by Mrs Leigh's comments. In general, the college is successful in building excellent relationships with its tenants. "Rent reviews and lease renewals are handled on behalf of the college by a reputable local agent with many years of experience.

"We believe that our agent has acted at every stage of these negotiations in a courteous, professional and totally fair manner."

Graham Jones, of business campaign group Rescue Oxford, told Oxford City Council Mrs Leigh's situation was not uncommon.

He said: "We are very concerned about this situation. We understand why they're pushing for more rent but we thinks it's the wrong policy.

"Landlords have to look to the long term.

"They are destroying businesses in Oxford, specialist shops that will never return. It's dumbing down Oxford."

He added: "Mrs Leigh does appear to have been given a very short period of time -- she was hoping she would get sufficient time to negotiate.

"Mrs Leigh has been trading for 30 years and to see her shop while she's still got her glassware there is a historic occasion."

The news comes just a week after the Oxford Mail reported that some independent shops facing rent increases of up to 60 per cent from Oxford City Council feared they would be forced to close.

Two weeks ago the New Economics Foundation described Oxford as a border clone town on the verge of losing its identity, with only national chains able to afford levels of rent.