A Long Sutton equine shop is the first victim of the town’s soaring business rates after its owner confirmed it is to close.
Poppy Webber has blamed county council and tax officers for her decision to shut PeeWee Saddlery, in Hoddins Way, on Tuesday after three years of trading.
The equestrian shop was one of the first to move into the CaNeBuZo (Carbon Neutral Business Zone) units in December 2014. But Poppy says electricity bills and the prospect of her business rates bill nearly doubling to £18,500 made it impossible for her to continue trading.
Poppy said: “We were told by Lincolnshire County Council that when we moved in, we would qualify for small business rate relief and therefore not pay rates.
“Then we were promised again that, from April 2017, we would qualify for it.
“But that won’t happening now as we’ve been revalued at almost double the previous amount.
“The business rates are going up so much that we can’t afford it at all so we’re closing at the end of the month.”
The seven business units on the CaNeBuZo site, six of which are currently occupied, were touted as “ground-breaking, low to zero-energy costs” buildings when they were officially opened in September 2014.
But Poppy said: “The ‘eco’ buildings are anything but eco and our ‘low to no cost’ energy bills are instead massive as the solar panels feed into the grid and the energy isn’t stored for us at all.
“We were made to heat the building to 21 degrees celsius 24/7 all year round which means the underfloor had to be on all night.
The business rates are going up so much that we can’t afford it at all so we’re closing at the end of the monthPoppy Webber, owner of PeeWee Saddlery, Long Sutton
“So a small business that I’ve spent three years trying to build up has now got to close because I have been so seriously let down by the county council and Valuation Office Agency (which sets business rates).
“There’s no point in lingering over it any longer as it’s leaving me seriously out of pocket.”
Leanne Kerry (17), of Gedney Broadgate and a regular customer of Poppy’s, said: “It really is gutting and the county council forgets that, although it’s a business, Poppy is helping to support people’s lifestyles, hobbies and sport.
“Shops like Poppy’s should be supported by the council, not forced to close and leave others to travel to find new businesses.
“Working with Poppy for the past couple of years has been so inspirational and her endless amounts of hard work and dedication is unbelievable.
“She has helped with my riding in ways others can’t and, as well as this, she has also been like a second family.
“The closure of Peewee Saddlery will be heartbreaking and it’s a shame the council will not be able to understand this.”
Business rates and revaluations were raised in the House of Commons during yesterday’s Question Time with Prime Minister Theresa May.
She said: “Business rates are based on the rental value of properties which do change over time, going up, as well as down.
“It’s right that business rates change to recognise this and that’s the principle of fairness which underpins the business rates system.
“But I recognise that there has been particular concern that there will be some small business that are particularly adversely affected by the result of this revaluation.
“That’s why I’ve asked the Chancellor (of the Exchequer) and the Communities Secretary to make sure there is appropriate relief in the cases of those hardest hit.”
A county council spokesman said: “We are sorry to hear that PeeWee Saddlery is to close, particularly as it was one of the first businesses at CaNeBuZo.
“Many businesses are currently having to consider the impact of the national changes to business rates and take action to mitigate this.
“Unfortunately, this is not something we have any power over.
“In terms of energy bills, all tenants are responsible for choosing their own energy supplier and are free to shop around for a competitive rate.
“The power generated by the solar panels is made available to the tenants and only the excess is exported to the national grid.
“So there is no reason why the utilities bills should be any higher than other business units.
“In fact, we would expect them to be significantly lower.”