High street meltdown: Royal Arcade bosses plead with council to slash rates

PUBLISHED: 14:59 02 July 2019 | UPDATED: 14:59 02 July 2019

The Royal Arcade, in Norwich, where some businesses are struggling to meet business rates and rents

The Royal Arcade, in Norwich, where some businesses are struggling to meet business rates and rents Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2019

Norwich City Council is under pressure to cut business rates after the owner of one of the city’s most historic venues refused to slash rents amid mounting chaos on the high street.

Business rates payable to the council on units in the Royal Arcade, depending on size, range from less than £7,000 a year to as much as £73,000 for the space formerly occupied by Jamie's Italian. Tenants then have to fork out vast amounts in rent and service charge on top - amounting in some cases to almost £200,000 annually.

A council spokeswoman reiterated that the business rates were calculated by a pence-in-the-pound value set by the government applied to the rateable value of the property: "We are in talks with Legal & General but we are restricted in what help is available."

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Meanwhile Legal & General has instructed a rating surveyor in a bid to get the council to reduce rates. No rates are payable by the owners on empty units which are exempt because the arcade is listed.

The council does however have the power to grant a rate relief if certain criteria is met.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, Business Improvement District, which lobbies on behalf of local firms, said: "There are several key costs for any business and rent and rates levels impact everyone. Norwich BID has been lobbying Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government nationally and even presented in parliament on the business rate review issue.

"We need to resolve this nationally to reduce the impacts locally, ensuring stores such as those in the Royal Arcade become as competitive as possible. We encourage everyone to get behind all the Norwich independent and boutique stores in the city centre to ensure we don't lose our uniqueness, we are proud that we are not a national clone town."

Matt Jarvis, fund manager, added: "We recognise that the council will play an important role in attracting people back to the city centre, to support the high street and local businesses."

But remaining tenants say their pleas for help have been largely ignored by the owner and any rent reduction minimal.

Nick Dunn, a partner in commercial property at Brown & Co in Norwich, reiterated he felt no owner would deliberately keep units empty just to avoid paying rates. "I'm sure any owner would do their upmost to see a unit occupied,"

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