Business’ High Street plea

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AN independent Wisbech business has hit out at the current economic mindset and claims it is driving small businesses out of town centres.

DK Reptiles, on Union Street, is moving to an industrial site at the end of July and owner David Johnson said increasing costs are one of the reasons for their move.

They have been struggling to pay business rates and high rent, on top of expensive bills.

Their new premises – a warehouse unit in Boleness Road – is much larger but costing around the same amount.

David said: “Small businesses just can’t afford to stay in the high street any more. Landlords won’t drop their prices because they say they’re in-line with what everyone else is paying and the council won’t budge either.

“I think Fenland should be trying to encourage new business. Some councils have dropped or frozen business rates or capped rents to try and get people to stay in the high street. Otherwise everyone will move out of town and the high street will die.”

A Fenland District Council spokesperson said: “These are undoubtedly tough times for all town centre businesses. Unfortunately, we have no control over the rents charged by private landlords or over business rates, which we don’t set and which we cannot change. However, if anyone wishes to apply for small business rate relief, we can help to guide them through the application process.”

DK Reptiles will be increasing its range in the new premises and will be stocking fish and aquatic products. They will also be expanding their breeding programme.

Three new partners have come on board, taking some of the pressure off David and partner Katie Boughen. Martin Norrington will be dealing with the aquatic side of the business, John Neilson will be IT and James Price will be in sales.

DK, which is changing its name to DK Reptiles and Exotics, will be continuing its work with the unemployed, taking on volunteers and teaching them about the care of reptiles.