‘Increasing business rates could price small businesses out of the high street in Melton’

Shops in Market Place, Melton, including the historic Swan Porch EMN-170329-092645001
Shops in Market Place, Melton, including the historic Swan Porch EMN-170329-092645001
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Small independent businesses could be priced out of setting up in some parts of Melton because of large increases in the rateable value of properties.

Small independent businesses could be priced out of setting up in some parts of Melton because of large increases in the rateable value of properties.

That was the fear expressed by traders and estate agents in the town as new rates come into force on Saturday - the first revaluation for seven years.

Some smaller businesses are fortunate to not pay any rates at all after the government raised the threshold for 100 per cent rate relief to include properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.

But others have been hit with big hikes, with some empty units being filled by charities instead because they are not liable to pay rates.

Rates are traditionally reassessed every five years but the government instigated a two-year delay on the latest revaluation, accentuating the increases in some instances.

More Coffee, in Market Place, must find around an extra £1,000 a year in rates after the revaluation of their property.

Owner Mark Cook said: “We’ve had to put our prices up for the first time since we opened in 2012.

“This is to compensate for business rates and wages going up.

“The business rates on our side of Market Place 
have gone way up and it does make it harder for small businesses.

“I would much rather that they increased VAT so everyone got taxed on their profits.”

Louise Bushell, who runs Miss B’s Tea Rooms in Market Place, said rates were already too high in the town before the revaluation pushed them higher in some areas.

She opened a deli in Sherrard Street but had to close it within 11 months.

“That business failed because the rates were extortionate,” said Louise, who is enjoying rate relief at the tearooms because it is considered a smaller property.

“Something does need to be done about the rates in Melton because it is why we have so many empty shops.”

Toni Baumann, owner of Gracies sandwich bar in Market Place, does not pay rates because of her small property.

But she said: “The high business rates mean we are not attracting new businesses into Melton.

“Every business would consider closing if there were anymore increases in rent and rates in this town.”

Simon Shouler, of land and estate agents Shouler & Sons, in Melton, said the new rateable values of factories were about right in the town but offices had been valued too high and some shop units were rated at higher levels than they should be.

He said: “Shop rates have been grossly distorted, firstly by one or two high rents agreed by charities who pay no rates, and secondly, in streets of small shops where small businesses pay no rates, rental levels have crept up, and with it the rates burden on the one or two larger shops in the street where relief is not available.

“The worst case is 18 Market Place, or Swan Porch, where the rateable value has gone from £11,000 to £23,250.

“We have had to let this to a charity.

“It’s nice for the charity, and we are glad to support them, but we also like to see genuine retailers occupying prominent premises in the town.

“Here however, no commercial retailer could survive with a headline rates bill of £11,000, plus rent, staff and electricity.

“I believe all occupiers should pay rates, but they should be correctly assessed on true rental value, and should only be levied at 20p in the pound.”

Property agents, Bentons, who are based in Nottingham Street, said there was a struggle to get a balance of small independent businesses alongside larger chains and charities in Melton.

Managing director Alastair Benton said: “There needs to be a vibrant town centre in Melton and the rates are a fundamental cost which need to be controlled in relation to the profit and turnover of the business.

“You will have seen the trend in the town moving away from traditional businesses to chains and it is a matter of getting the balance right.

“The Tuesday market and the draw of people is extremely important to the success of Melton, as are all the various food shows which are successful.

“There needs to be ‘bread and butter’ businesses in the centre of the town which draws the public on days other than market days and the rates are a very fundamental issue when it comes to High Street footfall and the variants of choice about this.

“Charities do have the advantage of not paying rates, but they also fulfil a role.

“Like all matters, there needs to be a balance and the town centre managers are doing their best to provide this.

“The overall position on rates must be that if they become onerous then shops will not be able to make a profit and the balance of choice will diminish. It is as simple as that.”