Sidmouth business handed lifeline

Mark Feeney outside Trumps of Sidmouth. Picture by Simon Horn. Ref shs 5659-03-13SH

Mark Feeney outside Trumps of Sidmouth. Picture by Simon Horn. Ref shs 5659-03-13SH - Credit: Archant

AROUND 30 Sidmouth businesses – including one of the country’s oldest – could be handed a lifeline thanks to a chartered surveyor’s crusade to get business rates slashed.

Richard Heard has bagged a £2,000-a-year saving for 200-year-old family-run grocers Trumps, and hopes similar benefits can be rolled out across the town centre.

His company Heard and Co made test appeals based on several shops in Fore Street and successfully got the headline Business Rating Valuation reduced by seven per cent.

Jackie Feeney, who owns Trumps of Sidmouth with her husband Mark, said: “We’re very grateful that Richard has managed to get such a significant reduction – it means we’re going to be able to survive.

“The shop’s 200 years old this year, it would be a shame not to make it through.”

The amount businesses pay is a flat rate that depends on the size of a property rather than its profit, so a grocery can pay the same as a designer clothes store.

Jackie said: “If you sell things that don’t have a high margin then it becomes a struggle.”

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She believes Trumps is one of the oldest shops in the country that has always stayed in the same place, but it has downsized over the years.

The shop used to run through to Old Fore Street, and it owned what is now Carinas.

Richard estimates around 30 shops will benefit from the appeals – some of which did not even pay for the service – and says it will be backdated to April 2010.

Owners of other businesses in Fore Street may not have been aware he was making the representations, but welcomed the work he has done.

John Davis from Humbug, which has been open just two years, said: “Any savings that can be made at the moment are welcome.

“We opened during the recession so we always run a tight ship, but we would support any reduction in costs.”

Richard said the process takes years rather than months, but it is worth persevering and seeking professional advice.

He will now be pursuing discussions to reduce the rates in the rest of the town centre, and said there was bound to be a knock-on effect that may benefit other ratepayers in Sidmouth.