|Planet Hitchin © Paul W Waby|
'If we do not have a good range of independent traders, we will lose the differentiation of' [insert town name here].
The business rate is a tax levied on firms that operate from premises designated as commercial is not based on the firm's turnover, but on the size of the buildings and their rental value.
Normally, the Government sets the charges every five years, keeping them in line with movements in the property market. The latest review was due in 2015, but the Government delayed making changes until April this year. In the seven years since rates were last adjusted, a property boom has pushed prices up by 50% in some areas. When property values rise, rents will usually go up, too. And that's what's now causing business rates to jump.
Hitchin is the victim of its own success, as a destination in which to make one's home, or to visit. Part of its continuing growth and attraction, is the number of independent traders, as well as the market and thriving cultural and social life. The loss of some or many of those traders will be detrimental to the economy and life of the town.
Towns such as Southwold, which relies on its seasonal tourist trade, are mounting campaigns against what looks like, if individual cases are to be taken as indicative, a system which discriminates in favour of large, national retail and services chains.