13/08/2009 - 00:00

End near for markets stoush

13/08/2009 - 00:00

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THE long-running dispute over rents at Fremantle Markets could be near an end, after an independent assessment indicated the markets' directors have been charging fair rents.

FAIR CALL: An independent assessment has found that the directors of Fremantle Markets have been charging fair rents. Photo: Tim van Bronswijk

THE long-running dispute over rents at Fremantle Markets could be near an end, after an independent assessment indicated the markets' directors have been charging fair rents.

Fremantle Council released a short form of the 'Fremantle Markets consultancy' report by property analysis group Jones Lang LaSalle for public readership last month.

The report found the valuation commissioned by the directors of Fremantle Markets last November complied with proper valuation methods, and that rent levels were "within the range of fair market values as at the date of the report".

The disagreement centred on a report commissioned by the Fremantle Markets Stallholders Association in April, which found the rental structure for the Fremantle Markets did not represent fair market rental.

The 'stallholders' association' report, which was conducted by analysts Porter Matthews, compared rental values at the markets to Fremantle CBD rents and other similar markets around the country.

The Porter Matthews report concluded that Fremantle's rental structure was significantly higher than any other capital city markets except for Sydney.

But Fremantle Markets director Jamie Murdoch said the report was flawed because Porter Matthews was instructed not to contact the market directors to access tenancy information and rental details.

To mediate the issue, the City of Fremantle called on a provision in the markets head lease that allows for independent valuation in the case of disagreement.

Fremantle Markets director Jamie Murdoch said a condition of going to the independent valuer was that both the Murdoch family and the City of Fremantle would accept the umpire's decision.

"We feel vindicated, rather than relieved, because we were always confident that our original valuation provided an accurate reflection of fair market rents," Mr Murdoch said. "We can now get back to our day job, which is to substantially upgrade Fremantle Markets, a project on which we will be investing hundreds of thousands of dollars of our own money.

"We've lost four months as a result of this fracas. We had hoped to have some important changes in place by the spring, but now it's looking more like Christmas."

Mr Murdoch said the long-running saga had taken a significant toll.

"We have incurred some substantial legal costs, and we've suffered a loss of income by acceding to council's request that we put a hold on rent increases to the bulk of stallholders until the issue was resolved," he said.

"In addition, we have copped a great deal of verbal abuse, not only from stallholders but also some councillors and the newly elected member for Fremantle Adele Carles ... that the valuation has now shown to be completely unwarranted."

Fremantle City Council would not comment on the Jones Lang LaSalle report until it was discussed at a council meeting this week.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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