LETTER: Action needed on business rates before we become a ghost town

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I READ with great interest the letter by Peter Cavaney regarding business rates and feel readers should be made aware of what is happening to many small and large retail shop owners, and of the reason which is now causing them serious financial problems and why Burnley is becoming more of a ghost town.

There is a situation now where, to lease a commercial property to a willing tenant, be it retail or office premises, the rent has to be lowered, otherwise the business will not succeed. Therefore, the rents of commercial properties are being forced down to try to ensure properties are occupied but the stupendously high cost of the NDR (business rates) is a deterrent. There are instances now of where the annual rents being charged are less than the annual NDR (business rates).

For example, for a commercial property that can nowadays only be rented out at £100 ar week (£5,200 per annum), the business rate is £120 a week (£6,000 per annum), and I have evidence of such.

This situation cannot be allowed to carry on and so the district valuer must be called in urgently to make an assessment of the business rates accordingly. If the NDR is not reduced, then this town will become even more of a ghost town than it is at present.

To reinforce my argument, all you have to do is walk round town, Manchester Road, Market Square, St James’s Street, Standish Street etc and see for yourselves. Empty shop after empty shop, empty offices after empty offices.

Even the council itself has office property unoccupied in Nicholas Street, which the council tax-payer is helping to pay for the maintenance and outgoings of. The position is serious and very worrying, and will have to be addressed very quickly.

I would suggest to Mr Cavaney he seeks the advice of a chartered surveyor and obtains a current up-to-date valuation for the rent of his property, which would be more affordable, and therefore attractive to a prospective tenant and bring the case of the cost of the business rate on his property to the immediate attention of the district valuer.

A reduction in rents and a reduction in the NDR on properties in Standish Street and other parts of the town of Burnley would make them more affordable and therefore more attractive to the would-be entrepreneurs in our town, of which there are many. We want businesses to succeed in this town, and success will bring jobs and prosperity, but these will never be if the price to establish is too high. The present situation is absolutely crazy.

Rents are negotiable. The business rates have also to be negotiated and very quickly. Otherwise!

Mr Cavaney, your concern is shared by very many, and it is high time this matter was resolved. There is no time to lose.

COUN. DAVID

HEGINBOTHAM