A GREENGROCER is fighting to claim back thousands of pounds he says he has overpaid in business rates in a row over his store room boundary.
Peter Patterson, from All Seasons Fruiterers, in High Street, Lee-on-the-Solent, has had his case heard at a tribunal – and is now waiting to see if he will get back any of the money.
Mr Patterson, 70, said: ‘There has been a substantial amount of money overpaid. It would make a significant difference to my business.’
Mr Patterson’s shop has been a long-standing fixture of the high street. He started in 1988, and when the shop next door became vacant in 1990, he took over that and combined the two units, creating a storeroom and preparation area at the back, which is separated from the shop floor by a fixed metal fruit and vegetable display and a wooden partition.
The Valuation Office Agency said because this partition is not brick, it could be removed if another company took over the premises, and therefore it has charged him a higher rate for the area – deeming it to be usable shop floor classed as ‘zone B’, not a ‘zone C’ for a storeroom. The front 6.1m part of any shop is automatically classed at the higher rate ‘zone A’.
Mr Patterson argues that as customers are not allowed behind the partition, and that it is clearly separated, it should be deemed ‘zone C’.
He said: ‘The shop has been like this for 25 years. The partition is permanent. It has always been a store room with two preparation areas. I find it so wrong they should be so dismissive of my argument. We have also just signed a new lease.’
Mr Patterson said that he was not aware of the differing rates until late last year, and he estimates that he has been overcharged by about £108,000.
He said: ‘I am sure there are other people throughout the country in similar situations who are paying rates unfairly, that’s why I want to highlight my case.
‘There is a lot of interest in this case, if proven, the ramifications being huge nationally for small businesses.’
Mr Patterson, from Gosport, employs his son, plus four other staff members at the shop.
His case was heard at a tribunal hearing at the Winchester Hotel, in Worthy Lane, last week. He is expecting a decision from the Valuation Office Agency this month.