‘It’s having a horrendous impact’- Business owners blast impact of high rates

Rory Sexton, managing director of Zest Car Rental, is one of those to speak out about the impact hig

Rory Sexton, managing director of Zest Car Rental, is one of those to speak out about the impact high business rates are having on the town. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Business owners in Dereham have hit out at the high level of business rates in the town, which they say are damaging the High Street and preventing empty shops from coming back into use.

Damon Harris, who took over the long-standing Dereham DIY and Hardware and then opened Harris Hardware with his wife, is one of those to voice concerns and believes the level of rates makes it very difficult for those looking to start up.

Mr Harris opened his shop further down the High Street at 30 Market Place and said: 'It's definitely something we have experienced, especially with the placing of our shop. Currently we are due to pay £14,500 in business rates a year.

'I am applying for some rate relief but that will only be for a year. It's quite ridiculous, this is just Dereham, a little market town. It's having a horrendous impact.

'This property has been empty for three and a half years before we moved in.'

Mr Harris said he is hoping that the amount he is due to pay will be reduced, with the Chancellor's Autumn Budget setting out plans to give eligible retailers a one third discount on business rates.

Rory Sexton, managing director at Zest Car Rental, which also owns retail property in Dereham, including the Harris Hardware shop also believes that business rates are a huge problem.

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He said: 'Retail businesses on the High Street are at a huge disadvantage when compared to online businesses who can operate from smaller, out of town warehouse premises, where rents are lower and business rates are a small fraction of those in the town centre.

'Landlords actually want long-term viable tenants. The high cost of business rates is preventing some independent businesses from starting up in town.'

Business rates in Dereham are not set by Breckland Council but the Valuation Office Agency, with Breckland then collecting the money locally.

A Breckland Council spokesperson said: 'We recognise that business rates and commercial rent are two of the biggest expenses to businesses and as a council we do offer a range of support to eligible businesses.

'We encourage any existing business or anybody looking to launch a business in the district to get in touch to discuss the support which may be available to them.'