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In a letter sent to clients, managing director Ben Whitaker confirmed that the business, launched in February 2003, had been closed permanently despite last month’s assurances to the Antiques Trade Gazette by his co-director Neil Munro that new premises would be found.

Dealers who rented space at the largest antiques centre in the country have learned that there will be no refunds on outstanding rents and deposits. Mr Munro said the company, NATS Ltd, had no assets to repay stallholders for the leases that had already been taken and no funds to repay the dealers’ deposits, usually one month’s rent. For many dealers this means losses of at least £1000.

Mr Whitaker has sent a letter to those affected. Dated July 9, it states that the plan to relocate Trade Space in a smaller building 400 yards from their existing warehouse in Brunel Drive had fallen though. “Sadly our landlords have withdrawn from the agreement we thought we had reached with them back in April. We have spent the last few days desperately seeking a compromise with them to no avail,” he explained.

The announcement that the centre was closing without refunds has angered many of the 200 or so standholders. One dealer who believes he is owed £1000 in rents and deposits, said: “I paid the rent as usual at the start of the month [July] and then find out that they’re going under a week later.” He described the whole affair as “a pitiful situation”.

When asked about the payments Neil Munro said: “Rents were collected on June 28 when we were confident of continuing. True business then stopped on July 9.”

Mr Whitaker’s letter also prompted a rush to remove items from the Newark centre as standholders were instructed to collect their stock within seven days. The Antiques Trade Gazette has been informed that only two members of staff were present to marshal the 60,000 sq ft floor space during the clear-out. One dealer described the scenes at the warehouse as a “bun fight”. Others said that stock went missing during the days when dealers were vacating the premises.

Andrew Draper said he has lost a mahogany twin-pedestal desk with a reading slope. “When I was able to go down to Newark and get my stock on the Tuesday [July 13], I found the desk missing. I presumed it had been sold, but when I went to the Trade Space office a few days later, apparently nothing had been sold.”

He said the desk was worth in the region of £2000.

“After that, I tried to get hold of someone at Trade Space to speak with, but nobody seemed to answer the phone on the enquiries number.”

Mr Munro confirmed that stock had gone missing. “There were a lot of people removing their items and it was very crowded. The missing stock was reported to the police at the time.

“Ben Whitaker himself paid for a separate warehouse to hold the stock at his own expense,” he said.

It is possible that antiques belonging to different dealers may have been mixed up in the throng. However, Mr Draper said: “I’ve lost my desk and I’d like to know who’s responsible.” Unfortunately for Mr Draper, his insurance company have informed him that he will not receive a pay out as no break-in occurred.

Dealers who believe they have lost items in the clear-out are asked to contact PC Lloyd (2592) at Newark police station on 01636 605 999 (ext: 7616). The crime incident number is 63732.