A UTTOXETER shopkeeper is urgently appealing to the borough council take action about the state of the high street.
As shop after shop close in the Uttoxeter high street, shop owner Lorna Eldergill has spoken out on the number of empty units and the ‘lack of care’ in the town centre, in a bid to get something done before it is ‘too late’.
East Staffordshire Borough Council responded saying there is likely to be a discount of up to £1000 against business rates bills for certain retail premises in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and they ‘look forward’ to being able to introduce them in town.
Ms Eldergill, owner of independent shop Metastone at Lion Buildings, in Market Place told the Post and Times of her concerns that the borough council are not doing enough to stimulate new business in the high street and incentivise existing businesses to stay in town.
She said: “It’s a sign of the times, people shop more and more online.
“It’s saddens me to see a town with such beautiful architecture and the empty shops - there’s nothing worse than empty shops.
“No one at the council seems to care about the state of the high street - they don’t think about small businesses but instead focus on the retail parks.
“I don’t think they realise that when the smaller shops have moved out of the town centre they won’t come back.
“The council are being short-sighted by keeping business rates so high
“The small businesses add character to the town.
“Metastone has been in town for seven and a half years and we are still here to serve the Uttoxeter people but we are having to halve the floor space in the shop, as the business rates are so expensive.
“I believe the borough council should be incentivising new business, encouraging people to open up shop in the empty units and stop concentrating on retail parks.
“The fact that Buxton and Bonnett closed down last month and they have been here since 1909 tells you things have changed.
“Business rates are too expensive and new shops cannot afford to move in.
“We need affordable business rates and affordable premises.
“A huge problem in town is the Maltings.
“Why has it been allowed to deteriorate in this way and why has no one done anything about the empty units?
“We need to think about the aging population who rely on local shops - they don’t use the internet to buy their weekly shopping.
“My children were born in Uttoxeter and we want to create a town centre for them to be proud of - which at the moment I’m not sure it is.”
Councillor Richard Grosvenor, leader of the East Staffordshire Borough Council said: “Business rates, collected by local authorities are the way that those who occupy non-domestic property contribute towards the cost of local services.
“East Staffordshire Borough Council does not set the amount which is paid by local businesses.
“Each non-domestic property has a rateable value which is set by the valuation officers of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), an agency of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.
“The values are available to view online at www.voa.org.uk.
“The government then sets the amount that local authorities use to calculate the amount of business rates to be paid.
“We have recently introduced a Business Development Fund which sets out to assist local businesses in this tough economic climate.”