Earlier this year, I launched a survey on Business Rates and the future of Sidmouth High Street.
The survey came about following a meeting with business owners in May 2018 at Kennaway House in Sidmouth. There was an overall feeling that punitive business rates and a growing online marketplace were negatively affecting independent traders in Sidmouth.
I sent the survey to 250 traders in Sidmouth, with 43 responses. I would like to warmly thank those who sent in their responses and comments. I know that many traders and residents in Sidmouth – even those who did not have the time to reply – have made clear they would like to see its results.
- Business rates rose for over half (51 per cent) of respondents in the last financial year. One third of respondents believed they might make redundancies as a result. Almost all (95 per cent) respondents called for a wholesale review of business rates and business taxation.
- A reduction in tourism VAT could boost the local economy in Sidmouth according to two-thirds of respondents (68 per cent). Over half (56 per cent) of these businesses calling for a reduction suggested they would pass the reduction on to their customers.
Parking in Sidmouth
- When offered the choice, almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents would prefer a Park and Ride scheme in Sidmouth to a Park and Change scheme, to correlate with the seasonal peak in business. With almost one-third unsure (30 per cent), respondents were not keen (7 per cent) on a Park and Change Scheme. A Park and Change Scheme is effectively a car-pooling scheme across participating car parks to take you into the centre. Some respondents suggested the location for a main, large car park could be The Knowle.
- Only one third of respondents wanted a multi-storey car park on the Ham Car Park.
Sidmouth in general
- The unique selling points of Sidmouth are its ‘first class hotels and independent shops’ (29 per cent), its ‘heritage and regency architecture’ (24 per cent), its ‘beach and seafront’ (16 per cent), and its ‘unspoilt charm and character’ (16 per cent).
- An overwhelming majority (88 per cent) said they would be prepared to take part in a ‘Sidmouth Strategy’ wider consultation.
I would hasten to add that I conducted the survey before the Autumn Budget in November. I wrote to the Chancellor in October with the results of the survey, calling on him to review Business Rates as a matter of urgency. You can read the reply from HM Treasury in the Appendix to this document.
Therefore, the significant reduction in Business Rates for the next two years (2019-20; 2020-21) announced at the Budget is most welcome. A one third cut in rates for venues with a rateable value of up to £51,000 could save up to £8,000 per year for 90 per cent of hospitality businesses. At the next revaluation in 2021, rateable values will adjust to reflect changes in rental values.
Pubs, shops, restaurants and cafes called for help to compete with a growing online marketplace. The lobby-group UKHospitality estimates the measures in the Budget will ‘likely save the trade £750 million”.
Of course, I do not believe that there is time to rest on our laurels. There is still more work to do to help our retailers and the hospitality sector to thrive, such as a reduction in tourism VAT which I continue to argue for. I have sent the results of this survey to Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council, which I hope proves to be instructive for future policy and planning.
I shall ensure that the Government continues to hear the voices of businesses in Sidmouth and across East Devon.
Have your business rates increased for this financial year?
Yes – 22 (51.2%)
No – 21 (48.8%)
If so by how much as a percentage?
Do you believe that you may be forced into making redundancies at your business due to the increase in business rates?
Yes – 13 (30.2%)
No – 26 (60.5%)
Unsure – 4 – 9.3%
What do you believe to be the best solution to this issue?
8 replies talked about how rates should be based on turnover and profit and not based on value of property / footage (32%)
5 replies mentioned how small businesses are struggling so there should be a higher threshold (20%)
5 replies mentioned needing a complete review on taxes (20%)
3 replies mentioned needing a fairer system with even charity shops needing to pay a fair amount – (12%)
1 reply allowed to employ European labour (4%)
2 replies said it should have tax at point of sale as business is seasonal (8%)
1 reply said should have reduction of rates for commercial business (4%)
Would you like to see a wholesale review of business rates and business taxation?
Yes – 41 (95.3%)
No – 2 (4.7%)
Do you believe that a reduction in tourism VAT would boost the local economy in Sidmouth?
Yes – 28 (68.3%)
No – 4 (9.8%)
Unsure – 9 (22%)
If tourism VAT was reduced, would you be prepared to pass that reduction on to your customers?
Yes – 18 (56.25% of those applicable)
No – 6 (18.75% of those applicable)
Unsure – 8
N/A – 8
Parking in Sidmouth
Would you prefer a Park and Ride or Park and Change option in Sidmouth?
Park and Ride – 29 (63.6%)
Park and Change – 3 (6.8%)
Unsure – 13 (29.5%)
Would you like to see this run on a seasonal basis or all-year round?
Seasonal – 25 (56.8%)
All year round – 12 (27.3%)
Unsure – 7 (15.9%)
Which location do you believe to be the best for a main, large car park in order for this service to run?
The Knowle – 18 (50%)
Woolbreak – 5 (13.9%)
Manor Road Carpark – 4 (11.1%)
Field on edge – 2 (5.6%)
Alexandra industrial estate – 2 (5.6%)
Bowd – 2 (5.6%)
Steven Cross – 1 (2.8%)
Connaugh Gardens – 1 (2.8%)
Under Cricket Field – 1 (2.8%)
Do you believe in exploring the possibility of a multi-storey car park on the Ham Car Park?
Yes – 15 (35.7%)
No – 25 (59.5%)
Unsure – 2 (4.8%)
Sidmouth in general
What do you believe to be Sidmouth’s unique selling point?
First class hotels and independent shops – 17 (29.3%)
Heritage / regency architecture – 14 (24.1%)
Beach/ seafront – 9 (15.5%)
Unspoilt charm/ character – 9 (15.5%)
Environment – 7 (12.1%)
Local people – 2 (3.4%)
Do you believe that the levels of community policing in Sidmouth are adequate?
Yes – 11 (25%)
No – 24 (54.5%)
Unsure – 9 (20.5%)
Would you support the appointment of a ‘Sidmouth Czar’ to oversee a 20-30 year strategy for Sidmouth and tourism in the area?
Yes – 13 (31%)
No –17 (40.5%)
Unsure – 12 (28.6%)
If so, how do you believe this should be funded?
Waste of money – 5 (27.8%)
Town council – 4 (22.2%)
Government – 2 (11.1%)
EDDC – 3 (16.7%)
Events and local community – 1 (5.6%)
Local authorities and businesses – 1 (5.6%)
Council tax – 1 (5.6%)
Business contributions – 1 (5.6%)
Would you be prepared to take part in a wider consultation on a ‘Sidmouth Strategy’?
Yes – 37 (88.1%)
No – 5 (11.9%)
Unsure – 0
Do you believe that the redevelopment of Port Royal and the adjacent area should be looked at as a whole rather than in smaller developments?
Yes – 36 (85.7%)
No – 3 (7.1%)
Unsure – 3 (7.1%)
Do you believe that a seawall along the Esplanade would be positive or detrimental to the town?
Positive – 4 (8.9%)
Detrimental – 37 (82.2%)
Unsure – 4 (8.9%)
The Rt Hon. Sir Hugo Swire KCMG MP (East Devon)
House of Commons
020 7219 8173
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