Page last updated at 15:51 GMT, Saturday, 12 December 2009

Traders refuse to pay 'deer tax'

Deer in Bushy Park
The tax was to compensate the king for any deer escaping the park

Traders near a south-west London park are refusing to pay a "deer tax" introduced 500 years ago by Henry VIII.

Firms which back onto Bushy Park must pay Royal Parks up to £1,400 per year in a tax designed to compensate the king for any deer which left the park.

Trader Lawrence Phipps said: "I feel we are going back to the days of King John, when taxes were very unfair."

A Royal Parks spokesman said the tax was "for all intents and purposes" rent for land near the park.

Jumped wall

The back wall of Mr Phipps's photography business, Click-2-Print in Hampton Hill, is also the perimeter wall of Bushy Park.

The "deer tax" was originally intended to compensate King Henry VIII for the loss of any deer which jumped over the wall and escaped from the park.

Each trader pays a different rate, with the tax levied on Mr Phipps' firm standing at £1,400 per year.

Mr Phipps said: "I think with what I've paid them so far I could have actually built this wall myself."

This is just a bizarre anomaly, a tax that originated hundreds of years ago because of what was happening in Tudor times
Vince Cable MP

Traders are being supported by Twickenham MP Vince Cable, who said the tax was "outrageous".

He said: "This is just a bizarre anomaly, a tax that originated hundreds of years ago because of what was happening in Tudor times.

"The traders today are faced with the burden of paying it."

Royal Parks said the tax was effectively a rental charge for the use of land near the park, which in Mr Phipps' case is a 5m (16.4ft) wide strip of land next to the perimeter wall.

Its spokesman said: "The Royal Parks charges an annual licence fee to owners whose property encroaches on Bushy Park."

He added: "All revenue raised from licences and rent contribute to the maintenance of the park.

"The Royal Parks staff are always willing to discuss any concerns owners may have about the level or structure of charges."

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