Suffolk firm's business rate victory

A FAMILY-owned stationery firm which claimed council-funded roadworks had devastated trade has had its business rates slashed.

Laurence Cawley

A FAMILY-owned stationery firm which claimed council-funded roadworks had devastated trade has had its business rates slashed.

Denny Brothers, in Bury St Edmunds, had been in dispute over its business rates since 2007 when the stationery firm, which has its shop on the corner of St Andrews Street South and Kings Road, claimed the major roadworks in Kings Road had hit its trade.

Denny Brothers claimed its turnover fell by about �5,000 a month for nearly two years while works were carried out in Kings Road and on the Arc development.

The firm applied for a reduction in its rates but St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which merely collects them on behalf of the Government, said it could not help.

Instead Denny Brothers was advised to seek a rate cut from the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which sets the rates.

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The stationery firm, and others affected while the works were ongoing, lodged their bid and were given a 15% reduction.

Denny Brothers claimed this was not enough and sought a further reduction by lodging an appeal with the Rates Tribunal, in April 2009.

The tribunal backed the VOA and upheld the 15% reduction.

Denny Brothers then went to the Lands Tribunal, in London, which overturned the earlier decisions and increased the reduction from 15% to 25% over a 22-month period.

Company director Barry Denny said: “We are very pleased with this final decision.

“While it is still a very long way short of ideal and does not make up for the lost trade, it is a victory for the little man against the establishment. We were able to weather the storm caused by this disruption as a result of being a well-established company.

“Had we been a recently-formed enterprise, we would definitely not have survived, as the demise of other local retailers testifies.

“We thank our loyal customers who stuck with us and/or returned, and our excellent staff who helped minimise the problems.

“After making investments in the business in 2006 by extending and renovating our premises, we are at last now seeing an improvement in trade despite the recession.”

Liz Halliday, VOA spokeswoman, said: “The VOA assesses the rateable value of properties, which the local council uses to calculate the business rates bill.

“The rateable value reflects the rental value of the property. In Bury, we looked at whether the severity and duration of the redevelopment work would have affected the value.

“The VOA is pleased that the case has concluded and plans to accept the Lands Tribunal decision.”