Star Campaign: Cut rates and revive city shops

Chris, left and Jasper Lawrence of Design Studio
Chris, left and Jasper Lawrence of Design Studio
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Sheffield traders have issued an urgent plea to ‘Save Our High Street’ as astronomical business rates threaten to push them to the wall.

Shopkeepers across the city are calling on Government to completely overhaul the business rating system to give them a chance to thrive.

The Star, and parent company Johnston Press, are today launching a nationwide campaign to support them.

* Related article:

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Mohammad Manouchehri, co-owner of Munchies in Chapel Walk, said: “Rates pose a threat to our business.

“It’s a huge cost, after rent it’s the biggest cost to the shop.”

Chris Lawrance, owner of Design Studio, which has been on Ecclesall Road for 30 years, said they paid £14,600-a-year, even after £1,000 of rate relief.

He said: “I’m appalled that they take so much money and we get nothing back. We’ve been here 30 years but I’m considering whether to give it up.”

Gavin Murray, manager of McDonald’s on High Street in the city centre, said: “With over 20 per cent of shops empty in the city – and so many empty units on Chapel Walk – flexibility on business rates, would reduce the costs of trading and potentially help fill them.”

At present business rates are set by government based on a formula which includes shop area and property value in 2008 – the peak of the market.

Half goes to the government and half to the local authority.

Amie Boughen, owner manager of Amie B dressmakers on Ecclesall Road pays £7,000-a-year but still has to pay Veolia to have her bins emptied.

She said: “It’s a disgusting amount. What do they do for the money?

“They don’t re-invest it in business or Ecclesall Road. It looks scruffy. It is any wonder there are so many empty shops?”

The Pointing Dog restaurant on Ecclesall Road opened in May following a £1.4m refurb and extension of the former Polish Club. It employs 40.

The property manager for parent company, Java Joe’s, said the rates had shot up from £8,900-a-year to a staggering £121,000.

“We are stunned, it’s a lot of money straight off our bottom line and what’s the benefit to us?

“It’s a penalty for investment and a massive deterrent to anyone else.”

Mathew Frolish, of Lynne’s Pantry on Surrey Street said: “Over recent years business rates have been my biggest complaint.

“It’s getting harder to be an independent, whether you are selling clothes or coffees.”

And Simon Brown of Brown’s Jewellers on Pinstone Street said: “If business rates were reasonable then perhaps all the shops would be full and the Government would get the same, or even more, money.”

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