Works Must Pay campaign

Call on your MP for roadworks help

By Oli Gross

- Last updated on GMT

Call on your MP for roadworks help

Related tags Local government Business rates in england and wales

The Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA) is stepping up its roadworks compensation campaign for pubs. Oli Gross reports.

Many pubs struggling with reduced footfall during roadworks schemes have reported a lack of support from their council. Local authorities have told licensees there is no compensation available due to guidelines handed down by central Government, but a Department for Transport spokesman told the PMA the issue was a ‘matter for individual councils’ and not for central Government, leaving affected licensees with nowhere to turn for help. 

The PMA is calling on all licensees financially disadvantaged by roadworks to contact their MP to call for a change in the law.

The PMA is also lobbying MPs who have pubs affected by roadworks in their constituencies to table an Early Day Motion — allowing the issue to be debated in parliament. The end goal is to change Government policy — helping licensees get compensation they deserve, but rarely receive.

‘Arduous and flawed’

There are currently measures in place — a licensee can appeal to the valuation office agency to change their rateable value if they are affected.

However, Jerry Schurder, head of business rates at property consultants Gerald Eve, said only major disturbances of more than six months can be successful — and the process is arduous and flawed.

“The difficulty is an appeal takes an awful long time to make its way through the system. Recent statistics find somewhere between one and a half and two years,” Schurder said. “For a licensee suffering today, to say ‘don’t worry, some stage down the line if you’re still in business you might get some sort of rebate’, it doesn’t help them enormously.”

There are provisions for fast-tracking, but they’re unreliable, according to Schurder. “Someone digging up the road for a month could cause a real loss of trade, and you don’t get any results through the rating system because that’s thought to be too transient,” he added.

Local authorities do currently have discretionary powers to reduce business rates, for which central Government funds 50%.

“But local authorities are strapped for cash, so they aren’t using powers given to them,” Schurder explained. “This is the possible solution: for Government to say if a pub has a short-term disturbance that is affecting their business materially, then we will recommend the council should grant relief, and central Government will refund that cost.”

Government has used similar policies to help businesses in the past, so there is a chance the roadworks policy could be altered, he added.

“The legislation sucks. It’s unfair to businesses”

Paul Weeks, director of 28-strong Innovation Pubs, estimated he’s £20,000 down on trade a week thanks to roadworks schemes in both Grimsby and Hull.

Weeks said one of his pubs in Hull was severely impacted, while three in Grimsby are directly affected, with a further eight indirectly affected by works throughout the town centre.

Hull has been chosen as the UK’s City of Culture for 2017, so the city is seeing widespread redevelopment.

“We can’t accept deliveries and they are being rejected, window cleaners can’t get to the windows, our pubs are looking dirty,” he said.

The Green Bricks in Hull says it has lost £6,000 a week since November because of ongoing roadworks. “It’s an obstacle course to even get to the pub. Customers have to walk over planks and bridges,” Weeks said.

He is disappointed with the lack of support from North East Lincolnshire Council.

“They think that by putting a little plank so people can walk to our front door, it’s acceptable. They think ‘so what if this guy is having a hard time, if he goes, there are plenty of other people who will pick it up’. That’s their attitude.

“Who is going to want to go in the pub? We’ve been going from 200 covers a day down to 70 now, and everyone complains about the noise. We’ve had no warning, no consultation and no letters. Concerns fall on deaf ears.”

Weeks has appealed to the council for compensation, but been told there’s no money available, and solicitors have advised him there’s no legal backing to fight the council’s stance. “The legislation sucks. It’s unfair to businesses,” he said.

Related topics Legislation

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