Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Sunday, 27 July 2008 13:27 UK

Tram route rates reduction call

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland news website, Edinburgh and East reporter

Shandwick Place
Shandwick Place has been dubbed a 'ghost town' since the works started

The company building Edinburgh's tram system wants a rates reduction of 80% for businesses on a key route closed for works in Edinburgh's west end.

Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (Tie) has written to the Lothian Assessor to ask for the rebate for firms in Shandwick Place while it is closed.

Tie also wants firms along the rest of the 16km route to be given a higher reduction than the 20% allocated.

Shandwick Place shops say the work has caused their takings to drop by 60%.

Shop owners said they have been forced to hold sales in an attempt to attract custom.

Shandwick Place will be closed until August while pipes are moved to make way for tram lines. It will be opened in time for the Edinburgh Festival before track work begins on the route linking Newhaven with Edinburgh Airport.

What is now being offered differs from the original agreement as we understood it
Graham Birse
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce

Most of the firms are also not eligible for the Small Business Support Scheme (SBSS), which offers businesses with a 28,000 rates bracket a 4,000 grant.

The SBSS is a 2m pot which was created in 2007 to help compensate firms for loss of revenue from lack of footfall due to the disruption.

As of 14 March, just over 500,000 had been given to businesses along the route. They received a one-off payment of 4,000.

Mike Connelly, Tie stakeholder relations manager, said: "I have written to the deputy Lothian Assessor, John Fowler, calling for him to reconsider his position and for him to increase his rate reduction to 80% for businesses in Shandwick Place but I haven't heard back yet.

Gordon Sutherland, owner of Fast Frame in Shandwick Place
Gordon Sutherland has put on a sale in a bid to attract customers

"I would also like him to reconsider his position on the whole line with regards to business reduction rates."

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said he was "whole heartedly" behind Tie's call.

He said: "The rates revaluation scheme is in the control of the Lothian Rates Assessor.

"What is now being offered differs from the original agreement as we understood it.

"Businesses should be aware that there is an appeals process (as the assessor has pointed out) , which if they are unhappy with any decision from the assessor's office, they are encouraged to use."

Graham Russell, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses in East Scotland, said: "I'm pleased after over 15 months of constant persuasion by the FSB, Tie has at long last apparently come on board with the Edinburgh business groups and the city council in campaigning to the Lothian Assessor for business rates relief of up to 80% as per the original 2006 agreement.

"I'm sorry to say though that last Tuesday the Lothian Assessor formally turned down any attempt to increase the rate reduction above 20%.

"Had Tie taken its current actions when it was first asked to come on board, I am certain the retailers would not be in the position in which they currently find themselves."

Deputy Lothian Assessor, John Fowler, was unavailable for comment.

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