Retailers raging over unrealistic shop rates

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shop owners have hit out at high rates that are driving businesses out of the borough.

Sarah Jones of Gregory’s Leather, which has been trading for 150 years, said the rates are putting new businesses off and making it difficult for established ones to continue.

Owners Sarah Jones and brother Neil Gregory, pictured outside their Business premises on Baxtergate. Picture: Marie Caley D4510MC

Owners Sarah Jones and brother Neil Gregory, pictured outside their Business premises on Baxtergate. Picture: Marie Caley D4510MC

Since moving from St. Sepulchre Gate to Baxter Gate Mrs Jones has seen rates more than double to £19,000 a year.

She said: “During this past year since relocating we have benefited, but the problem that may finish us is the sky high rates based on rentable values from years ago.

“You only need to walk around the streets to see many empty shops, as businesses come and go, unable to survive the huge outgoings. Surely something must be done?

“The first step in this would be to reduce shop rates, as the figures are so out of touch with today’s High Street. Rents are high but at least landlords are realistic and will negotiate. I think Doncaster Council should reduce shop rates and help breathe life back into our town”

Mayor Peter Davies, said: “Doncaster Council does not set the business rates, they are set by the Valuation Office Agency. However, I do have sympathy with all local businesses during these most difficult economic times.

“We are investing around £1million in the markets this year to boost footfall and encourage investment in the area.”

Mr Davies said shop occupancy in the town’s retail core stood at 90.6 per cent - ahead of the national trend - and Baxter Gate recorded the highest pedestrian numbers in the town centre over the past five years.

Dan Fell deputy chief executive of Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, said: “In our letter to the Chancellor ahead of the budget, we will be calling for a three year freeze on uniform business rates to support growth. Nonetheless, we recognise that DMBC has often competing priorities, that essential services need to be delivered, that the public is stretched and that businesses are a source of revenue.

“We would, however, urge local and national government to look at the bigger picture – for example considering, when setting and collecting rates, the impact on wealth creation, employment and communities – to ensure that the net impact of business rates does not undermine the local economy, threaten jobs and further challenge the High Street.”