Bath retailers join campaign demanding freeze in business rates

November 12, 2012 4:20 PM

Bath retailers and local business campaigners joined forces with the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the British Retail Consortium to call on the government for a freeze in business rates. We gathered in Barton Street near the Bistro La Barrique, whose owner, Michel Lemoine, is angry at the number of shops standing empty in the area.

‘There is a shop next door to us which has been closed for nearly four years,’ he explains. ‘To the left of that is another shop that has been closed for over six months. They are both perfect for small retailers, but the business rates are too high and so is the rent. It scares off people.’

Sky-high business rates are making it difficult for independent retailers to fill these empty spaces. But empty premises make for an unattractive retail environment that can have a negative impact on even popular businesses.

Marty Grant of the Gascoyne Place pub and restaurant is equally frustrated by the lack of national and local government support for retail entrepreneurs. ‘The number of independents in Bath has halved since I’ve been here,'  he says. ‘Not only does that damage the character of a city like Bath, but it is also bad news for local suppliers too. We buy all our food from local farmers and producers. Chain restaurants just have their food delivered by massive trucks and put nothing into the local economy. So the more chains you have, the less money there is going from local retailers to local suppliers.’

Talking to Bath business people, there is a strong argument emerging for a two-tier system in which independent retailers and restaurateurs pay a lower business rate and rent than chain stores. If the government wants to rebuild the battered small business sector, it should look at proposals like this. Otherwise how can independent restaurants and shops compete against enormous national and international chains?

‘There are four closed shops in Little Southgate,’ says Angela Ladd of Bath’s Small Business Focus, referring to a new shopping precinct in the city. ‘Initially 25% of the Southgate retail space was to be reserved for small local independents. This was agreed with the council. It never happened. When we reminded them about three years ago, I was told that small independents didn't have the financial foundation needed. The next working day the first chain retailer left their staff standing outside in the cold! It never reopened. I believe they now have two or three small independents, but they are mainly coffee shops.’

So, if you want to see busy high streets with a thriving variety of shops, please support our campaign demanding a freeze in business rates in this year’s Autumn Statement. You can help by writing to your MP at FreezeBusinessRates.org.

Bath retailers and local business campaigners joined forces with the Taxpayers’ Alliance and the British Retail Consortium to call on the government for a freeze in business rates. We gathered in Barton Street near the Bistro La Barrique, whose owner, Michel Lemoine, is angry at the number of shops standing empty in the area.

‘There is a shop next door to us which has been closed for nearly four years,’ he explains. ‘To the left of that is another shop that has been closed for over six months. They are both perfect for small retailers, but the business rates are too high and so is the rent. It scares off people.’

Sky-high business rates are making it difficult for independent retailers to fill these empty spaces. But empty premises make for an unattractive retail environment that can have a negative impact on even popular businesses.

Marty Grant of the Gascoyne Place pub and restaurant is equally frustrated by the lack of national and local government support for retail entrepreneurs. ‘The number of independents in Bath has halved since I’ve been here,'  he says. ‘Not only does that damage the character of a city like Bath, but it is also bad news for local suppliers too. We buy all our food from local farmers and producers. Chain restaurants just have their food delivered by massive trucks and put nothing into the local economy. So the more chains you have, the less money there is going from local retailers to local suppliers.’

Talking to Bath business people, there is a strong argument emerging for a two-tier system in which independent retailers and restaurateurs pay a lower business rate and rent than chain stores. If the government wants to rebuild the battered small business sector, it should look at proposals like this. Otherwise how can independent restaurants and shops compete against enormous national and international chains?

‘There are four closed shops in Little Southgate,’ says Angela Ladd of Bath’s Small Business Focus, referring to a new shopping precinct in the city. ‘Initially 25% of the Southgate retail space was to be reserved for small local independents. This was agreed with the council. It never happened. When we reminded them about three years ago, I was told that small independents didn't have the financial foundation needed. The next working day the first chain retailer left their staff standing outside in the cold! It never reopened. I believe they now have two or three small independents, but they are mainly coffee shops.’

So, if you want to see busy high streets with a thriving variety of shops, please support our campaign demanding a freeze in business rates in this year’s Autumn Statement. You can help by writing to your MP at FreezeBusinessRates.org.

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