Fears grow in Southwold over proposed business rate increases

The High Street in Southwold. Picture: James Bass

The High Street in Southwold. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

Community leaders of a coastal town have warned 'the guts will be ripped out of the town' if proposed business rate changes go ahead next year.

The seaside resort of Southwold is renowned for its selection of independent High Street shops which make-up the town's unique charm and traditional character.

However, proposed government increases to rateable values, from which business rates are calculated, could see such businesses facing closure as they are forced to pay more than double what they have been paying for the past five years.

During a Southwold Town Council meeting this week, concerns were raised by business owners, residents and town councillors regarding the projected fees.

One business set to be affected is Mills and Sons butchers, which is due to see a rateable value increase of 175 per cent - from £14,000 to £38,500.

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Charlie Mills, managing director, said: 'This has been a tough year and I am most concerned by this horrific proposal. If it had happened this year, it would have pushed us into the red.'

Following discussions Southwold Town Council has made plans to contact Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, by the end of the week to try and arrange a meeting with financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison.

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Southwold mayor, Melanie Tucker, said: 'This is a huge threat to the town and the viability of the town in the future.

'We are determined to do our best to support businesses to achieve an outcome that is appropriate for the town and its businesses.'

'If we do not have a good range of independent traders, we will lose the differentiation of Southwold and the guts will be ripped out of the town.

'It does not feel just but we are up for a challenge - and the way we are going to respond is using appropriate data and to contact Therese Coffey and Jane Ellison to help achieve a review of the process.'

MP Therese Coffey said: 'I am writing to all businesses on the High Street in Southwold to make them aware of how they can appeal the rise if they feel it is unfair. 'This is not a revenue raising exercise for the government but realigning the basis on which businesses are charged.'

She added:'Three quarters of businesses across the country will actually see their rates either fall or remain the same and the government is doubling the threshold from which small businesses will be exempt from paying any rates at all. 'I am seeking a meeting with the Treasury Minister to press the case on how independent businesses in the town will be affected.'

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