TRADERS weathering the battle for the area’s high streets have welcomed planned rate relief in the chancellor’s budget next week.
Philip Hammond will push through £900m of immediate business rates relief, in response to growing concerns about the future of UK high streets, it has been widely reported. The focus will be on small businesses.
The Guardian reported some £650m will be poured into a transformation for high streets.
According to traders, this could improve their outlook – but still may not be enough to save the high street.
Dean Searl, manager of butchers Buckwells in Osborne Road, Southsea, said: ‘If this is the case then it’s certainly good news – hopefully there’s not a catch in that either.
‘I don’t think it will save the high street though; the new status quo has already set in with coffee shops and charity shops.
‘High streets and shopping centres are struggling and if the councils had the foresight to help us out these businesses before they started to collapse, things might be different.’
Shaun Palmer, manager of comic book store Room 237 in Albert Road, Southsea, added: ‘A bit of relief on business rates is definitely good news for traders.
‘Portsmouth gets quite good business rates relief already but it’s always good news to hear that more is being done.
‘The only problem is that if we leave the European Union then it’s all going to sideways anyway – I don’t think this is going to save us.’
Nick Green, owner of A Little Slice Of Heaven in Gosport High Street, said: ‘Hopefully this will put the threshold up, which I think will attract the bigger stores into Gosport.
‘It’s good news for every high street, but it won’t be enough to save it – the council has to work with the landlords to get shops up and running, but they don’t seem too bothered about filling the empty spaces.
‘Something like a car boot sale on a Sunday for local residents would help inject a bit of life back into the high street – I don’t think business rates relief will be enough.’
But Gosport’s economic development board chairman, Councillor Stephen Philpott, remains optimistic about the announcement – which could also include a transformation fund for improved infrastructure and transport access.
He said: ‘I will wait to see what the chancellor has to say, but anything that will boost the high street is good news.
‘Gosport is in a better place than many high streets in the UK but any improvements are always welcomed.’