Felixstowe: Business rates rise could cripple shops

SHOCKED owners of shops and offices in Felixstowe are today analysing the impact of massive business rate rises amid fears the increases could force some to close.

Businesses are facing rises between 25 per cent and 100pc – and are being told the increases will be backdated to last year.

Andrew Rowdon, chairman of the town’s chamber of trade and commerce, said the increases had come as a huge shock to the town’s business community.

“This could cripple the town,” he said.

“At a time when we are going through very tough economic times and just getting used to the changes with the shared space scheme, this is very bad news – and we want to see these increases postponed and the backdating of them abandoned.

“Felixstowe has so much to offer and a fabulous shopping area but these increases could see some smaller businesses pushed out of town or out of business, making a mockery of the award-winning shared space scheme.”

Mr Rowdon said businesses were very worried about the situation.

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“If you are a large business paying �20,000 a year in business rates, to see them suddenly double to �40,000, I believe is criminal and someone needs to look very carefully at that,” he said.

“Even for smaller businesses whose income and profit is less, a rise of say 25pc or 50pc would have a huge impact and then to be told that it wil be backdated to last December and you need to pay another �3,000 or so. It’s disgusting.

“Trade is slow at the moment, and even if people were doing fantastically well, these huge rises would be a shock.

“We have 14 empty shops at the moment and it doesn’t look that many around the town centre, but if these rises go ahead then we will have a lot more and then when people visit it will look bad and deter them from coming back.”

A Valuation Office Agency spokesman said the rateable value of a number of retail properties in Hamilton Road had been increased following the receipt of new rental evidence after traders previously asked for rates to be cut while the shared space was being built.

“During the review to determine whether the shops should get a temporary reduction in their rateable value, new evidence – which the Valuation Office Agency was not aware of when carrying out the initial valuations – showed that the rental base used to determine the rateable values for the 2010 valuation was too low,” he said.

“When new evidence is found, the VOA must consider this when determining the correct level of rateable value. We have a legal responsibility to correct any inaccuracies in the rating list to ensure fairness and consistency.”

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