Clare shop owner fears recent rise in business rates will 'finish the high street'
A prominent Clare businessman says the recent hike in business rates threatens to “finish the high street”, stating it could add almost £3,000 to the annual overhead to run his antiques warehouse.
Chris Marchant, proprietor of Clare Antiques and Interiors at The Mill in Malting Lane, is awaiting the outcome of an application to St Edmundsbury Borough Council, in the hope of gaining assistance on what he described as a shock rise in rates for this year.
Mr Marchant told the Free Press he felt stuck “in limbo”, having had no answer nearly two months on from submitting the application, which can enable businesses to receive rate relief by showing a viable business plan.
He added that he had been able to put together this application due to his background in finances, but he believed that, for many high street businesses, the process would be a great burden to them and they may not even be able to pursue it.
“I shouldn’t have to go through this rigmarole,” he said. “It took me half a day and it’s a detailed and comprehensive business plan.
“I feel it’s a simple decision. It’s left us in limbo.
“If they are serious about helping businesses to stay open, they should not hit them with big rate increases.
“Overheads have gone up and business rates have risen. Eventually, it’s going to finish the high street.
“The fact is, there is uncertainty out there in the market.”
The business received planning permission from St Edmundsbury Council two years ago for the building itself to be converted into nine luxury flats.
But, after significant opposition from Clare residents at the potential loss of the shop, Mr Marchant chose not to act on these plans and said he would instead endeavour to keep the business open for as long as possible.
However, he explained this unexpected jump in rates has left its long-term viability uncertain and, if the finances become untenable, he would have no choice but to consider alternatives for the site, including the possibility of following through on the planning permission.
“Something has got to give. We would either have to cut down on overheads, like staff costs, or try to make savings elsewhere,” he said.
“Maybe we would have to close earlier or close a couple of days a week.
“I’m trying to keep the business going and keep it as it is, until such time as we are not able to do so.
“It is possible it can be kept going for a period of time, but one never knows what the future holds. But this increase in business rates was not budgeted at the start of the year.
“It’s something I was not expecting. It hit me like a tonne of bricks.
“If one looks around at the site as it’s no longer feasible, you have to look at your other options. I’m not going to wait until the business fails before I make that decision.
“I firmly believe you should not wait until the patient is dead before you try to resuscitate them.”