ANGRY traders say they will boycott York's Christmas fair after seeing costs for prime pitches increase by more than 40 per cent.

Stallholders say Make It York, which manages the St Nicholas Festival, has hiked prices by over £1,500 for stalls rented throughout the event from November 17 to December 23.

In 2015, businesses paid £5,544 (£158.40 a day) for large stalls in Parliament Street, while this year the pitches will cost £7,026 (£189.90).

On top of this, Make It York has introduced VAT for the first time, leaving stallholders facing an increase of 44 per cent per day and a total bill of £8,431.56.

Make It York said this year's fair was two days longer than in 2015, while VAT-registered businesses could claim back that cost.

The company has also brought in differential pricing, meaning less prominent pitches have gone down in price.

Make It York insisted this made for "a fairer pricing structure" and that "stallholders requested a higher fee for premium sites".

Rowena Johnson, director of the Essence of Peru shops in Shambles, York, has been a regular at the St Nicholas Festival, but says she cannot afford to return this year.

She said: "This price hike is completely unbelievable. They are pricing local traders out.

"Not one single trader can afford to pay that amount. Many have been there for 15 to 20 years.

"How on earth can they justify the price increases?

"For a large stall, you are looking at well over £8,000.

"The majority of the people who would be trading there are not VAT-registered.

"I have gone into the office this morning, spoken to (city centre and markets manager) Chris Price and given him both barrels.

"Make It York is meant to be supporting York and local businesses.

"This just feels like a massive kick in the teeth for traders.

"Not only have they hiked the prices, they are also asking for a 25 per cent deposit by May 6.

"To expect a small business to afford that is just ridiculous.

"I'm furious about it. I can quote seven or eight businesses that have been there since the start who won't be coming again this year."

Traders learned about the price increases via an email from Make It York on Monday.

Mrs Johnson said: "It was a massive shock. We had no warning.

"They have given us very little time to get the deposit together."

Mrs Johnson is compiling a list of other local traders who will not be returning to this year's fair.

She said they include Thomas Rodgerson (Lyndon James Homes), Steve Ogden (Rainbow Names), Chris Adby (Shawl Stall), Susan Turner Brooks (Britain's Vodka), Eleanor Arminson (Eleanor Arminson Wool) and Adrian and Mandy Forde (AA Jewellery and Gifts).

Mrs Johnson added: "I want to make the general public in York aware of this.

"They are not in it for the local businesses."

According to Ms Johnson's records, stall holders were charged £4,100 in 2014, £3,810 in 2013, £1,300 in 2012 and £1,080 in 2011.

Chris Price, city centre and markets manager, Make It York, said: "Last year there was a flat fee pricing structure applied for Christmas market stalls.

"We have listened to feedback from businesses and have introduced differential pricing this year so that the more prominent positions are more expensive and some of the less prominent positions are less expensive.

"This makes for a fairer pricing structure across the board and means prices in some areas have increased and in other areas reduced.

"Stallholders requested a higher fee for premium sites, however, there are affordable options available for all businesses.

"It is usual practice for the company to charge VAT and therefore this has been added to pricing this year.

"We’re committed to listening to traders and the new differential pricing has been introduced in response to consultation.

"It’s important to stress too that revenue generated through the Christmas markets is used to market and develop the Christmas Festival and improve it year on year."