‘Stupid’ regulations are ripping heart out of towns

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A prominent Horncastle councillor and businessman claims a combination of high rates and ‘stupid’ planning regulations are ripping the heart out of market towns.

Town councillor Phil Cantwell has called on ELDC to revamp the business rates system and scrap the ‘listed’ rating on many town centre shops, particularly as they are already in a conservation area.

Coun Cantwell claims high business rates are one of the prime reasons why independent shops are closing in places.

And he said listed building issues meant many shop owners were reluctant to either buy premises - or improve them - because of the huge costs involved.

Coun Cantwell was speaking at a town council meeting following a presentation by Coun Adam Grist, ELDC’s portfolio holder for Market Towns and the Rural Economy.

Coun Grist revealed the district council was considering a raft of initiatives to boost towns like Horncastle - including plans to regenerate weekly markets.

However, Coun Cantwell said business rates were ‘hammering’ independent traders.

He said he could understand the need to protect historic properties but questioned why ‘90 per cent’ of buildings in Horncastle town centre appeared to have listed status.

He said he had just moved his restaurant to new premises and faced a ‘nightmare’ because of stringent and ‘stupid’ planning regulations.

Coun Cantwell said: “There were times when I felt like packing up and doing something else.”

Coun Cantwell claimed ELDC planning officers insisted on an expensive type of paint being used on property exteriors.

He said he had replaced several windows. The usual cost was £211 per window but because the building was listed, the price soared to £975 per unit.

Coun Cantwell claimed it was difficult to either rent or sell listed properties - because of the cost of planning implications.

Coun Grist revealed 80% of business owners in ELDC were appealing their annual rate bills. He insisted that figure was the ‘national average’.

He said most of the income from business rates went to central Government but the District Council could receive a larger share under new proposals. However, he insisted that income was desperately needed to plug the gap in central Government funding.