What Harrogate Council thinks about rates and rents controversy

The challenges to Harrogate's high street are significant, so much so that even one of the town's top Harrogate property owners says he supports 'flexible rents' to help shops and businesses in the town centre prosper in the future.

Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 12:54 pm
One of the significant number of vacant retail properties in Harrogate town centre at the moment.

Calls have also been building in Harrogate's business and political communities for something to be done about the high level of business rates.

Neither rents nor rates are in the control of the local authorities; the former being under the power of private landlords, the latter in the domain of national government.

But Harrogate Borough Council does have firm views on the subject.

The Harrogate Advertiser asked two leading figures on the council to comment.

Rates and rents in Harrogate town centre

Coun Richard Cooper, Harrogate Borough Council leader

He said: "Harrogate Borough Council want to see fair rents and rates for retailers at levels which support business growth – not dampen enterprise and entrpreneurship.

"High street retailers including our trademark independent shops need a level playing field to compete with the major online retailers who don’t carry the same overheads.

"This needs landlords to start thinking about how they can play their part in re-invigorating the town centre.

"They need to see themselves as more than just recipients of rent but as a big part of the team ensuring town centre vibrancy.

"Business rates are set by the Valuation Office but guided by national legislation.

"They should be spent to create a great environment for businesses to operate in.

He continued: "Since the advent of internet shopping they have perpetuated a system which benefits big global online retailers. That playing field needs to be levelled.

"There have been moves to make these big corporations pay a fair level of tax but we should look to go further and faster."

Top Harrogate property owner says 'flexible rents' may stop 'ghost town' in town centreCoun Graham Swift, deputy leader of Harrogate Borough Council and cabinet member for economic development

He said: "The High Street across the UK is going through significant change.

"It is inevitable that landlords need to change their expectations in the rents they can charge retailers and the returns they might expect from their portfolios if they wish to keep their properties actively generating retail rents.

"I also envisage more property seeing changes of use including more office space, residential and mixed use assets in town centres as the retailing industry is clearly threatened in the long term by internet based services and home delivery which has grown exponentially in meeting customer needs.

He continued: "Harrogate Borough Council is leading the way in this area by recently purchasing properties in Knaresborough High Street with this specific goal.

"I believe there is also a logical argument for Government to explore levelling the playing field for retailers including considering the increase of business rates on distribution centres to make home delivery businesses compete with similar based business costs as retailers."