Shopkeeper issues plea over unfair rates

Expensive business rates, which are “absurdly” out of sync with what out-of-town supermarkets pay, are crippling Sudbury’s shops.

That is the view of Friars Street shopkeeper Ian Berry, who has written to South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo to urge him to take up the issue with Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Mr Berry, who has worked with his partner Jo Bury at Kestrel Bookshop for more than 10 years, said there were “terrific abnormalities” in the business rates town centre retailers paid in relation to supermarkets.

He said in some cases, shops on Market Hill had a rateable value – a valuation of their annual rental value on which rates are assessed – more than nine times that of stores such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Roys.

“The rates are unfairly high and I just want a level playing field and what is best for Sudbury,” said Mr Berry, from Bures Road, Great Cornard.

He said supermarkets were assessed under the Gross Internal Area (GIA) section of rates, while shops fell under the Net Internal Area (NIA) category, putting them at a disadvantage.

“The system for assessing business rates is wrong,” said Mr Berry.

“Supermarkets do not have their car parks assessed for rates and that is an integral part of the business. They couldn’t function without it.”

Shops including Julian Graves and Old Mr Simms were among those that closed last year and Boyz II Men in North Street is soon to shut.

Mr Yeo has promised to put Mr Berry’s concerns to Mr Pickles in the hope of readdressing the balance.

“I am thrilled Eric Pickles is going to be confronted about this,” said Mr Berry.

“The rates at Kestrel are three-and-a-half times that of Tesco and it is hard for shops to make their businesses work. This is happening all over the country and it is absurd.”

Mr Berry said Tesco was charged £37 per square metre for its rateable value compared to Kestrel £134.