Business Rates in Rhyl
Following a walk around of Rhyl town centre meeting with businesses and also attending the Rhyl Business Group it became apparent that Rhyl Town Centre is being stifled by the extortionate business rates currently being charges.
James has written to the Valuation Office Agency with the following letter to express his concerns:
‘Since my election as Member or Parliament in May, one of the principal issues raised with me has been the catastrophic decline of the town of Rhyl as a retail centre. Whilst I fully understand and accept that High Streets across the Country have been struggling in recent times, the challenge facing Rhyl, is I feel, of a significantly greater magnitude.
I believe that the rateable value of retail premises in Rhyl was last assessed at the height of the economic boom in 2008. At that time Rhyl was still clearly regarded as a sub-regional retail centre. Since that time major national retailers including Marks and Spencer, Next, Top Shop, Claires, Birthdays, Rymans, Evans, Mother Care, Thorntons, Internacional and others, have left the town, leaving large numbers of empty units including in the previously buoyant White Rose Shopping Centre. Even where units have been occupied the quality and range available has become significantly diminished.
In addition to national economic factors and the growth of online shopping, I believe there has been a fundamental change of circumstances with respect to the position of Rhyl as a retail centre. Partly this relates to severe continued economic challenges facing Rhyl as a town but undoubtedly the construction of a major convenient shopping park, with free parking, in nearby Prestatyn has played a role. Also relevant, has been the increasing offer and accessibility of retail opportunities in other towns in the region.
I have recently met with a number of business owners and commercial property agents who tell me that business rates at their current levels are stifling the ability of Rhyl Town Centre to recover, even if only as a neighbourhood shopping centre.
I am advised that property rents have halved in Rhyl since 2008 and that many businesses are therefore paying the equivalent of double their rent in business rates. This is not sustainable and in fact some landlords are currently letting their premises rent free. Even in this situation companies such as The Works are contemplating leaving the town as their turnover will not meet the business rates demands.
I have recently learned that Clarks shoes will be departing later this year along with many other independent retailers that are unable to sustain their business with the current rates chargeable.
I am very concerned about the future of Rhyl Town Centre, which one agent described to me as ‘nearly irretrievable’. I understand that business rates in the centre of Rhyl have been reduced by 10% and 7.5% over the last couple of years in recognition of some of the issues I have highlighted but it seems clear to me that they remain much higher than the level the town centre will currently support.
I am asking the local authority to reconsider its approach to parking and pedestrianisation but I believe that only a significant reduction in business rates will provide Rhyl town centre with the opportunity of a meaningful recovery.
In the interests of Rhyl and the future viability of the town as a centre for business, I would ask whether you might visit the town centre with me to determine whether a further major reduction in business rates can be agreed in advance of the next countrywide revaluation’.