Harrogate businesses to get lower rates and rents is the new hope

Harrogate Borough Council has said it is happy to fight alongside Harrogate and District Chamber of Commerce in a bid to cut crippling rates and rents in the town centre.

Thursday, 31st October 2019, 11:14 am
There are still a significant number of empty retail units lying empty in Harrogate town centre like this one on Parliament Street.

The council’s move to support local business comes after another week of tumult in the wake of the controversal UCI cycling championships which has seen the local authority come under fire on various fronts.

Emotions in the town continue to run high over the double whammy of the UCIs - the dreadful state of the Stray and the negative economic effects of the event on significant numbers of local businesses.

This week saw unprecedent criticism of the council’s attitude to the woes of the business world by Steve Scarre, the president of Harrogate and District Chamber of Commerce.

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New bid to reduce street begging in Harrogate as Street Aid is launchedAfter an exchange of combative letters between the chamber and the council, Mr Scarre told the Harrogate Advertiser, he had been “astounded” by some of the council’s comments.

In particular, the rejection of any hope of a temporary suspension of parking charges in December to support traders in the festive period amounted, he said, to “a slap in the face of local businesses.”

But Harrogate Borough Council’s leader, Coun Richard Cooper, said it was important the town stayed positive.

Although the council did not set business rates and had no control over rents, he said he realised how important they were to traders in Harrogate town centre.

He said: “The UK retail industry is being challenged by serious technological change, particularly from the internet.

“It seems to me that this and the continued outdated system of business rates which do not promote a level playing field between online businesses and high street retailers and the rents landlords charge for high street retail premises.

“These costs amount to tens of thousands of pounds for many businesses and neither of them are in the control of local councils.”

“We would be happy to work with the chamber to persuade landlords of empty units to reduce their rents and persuade Government to look at business rates reform.”

For its part, the chamber has already responded positively to the idea. Mr Scarre said: “The chamber would be delighted to work with the council on this and other initiatives to help local retailers.”