Trader hits back at display policy
A TRADER has hit back at a council s attempt to reassure shopkeepers they will not all be charged £1,000 a year for pavement displays. Two weeks ago shop owners in North Herts received letters informing them that they must now have a licence to put chair
A TRADER has hit back at a council's attempt to reassure shopkeepers they will not all be charged £1,000 a year for pavement displays.
Two weeks ago shop owners in North Herts received letters informing them that they must now have a licence to put chairs, tables and even A-boards outside their shops.
The letter said that this licence would cost £20 per week or £250 per quarter - approximately £1,000 for 12 months.
This week North Herts District Council issued a press release saying it wanted to reassure traders that they had the support of the council.
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The release apologised for the "misunderstanding" and stressed there would a sliding scale for fees, starting with a nil charge.
It claimed that higher fees would only be considered for certain large businesses.
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But William Armitage, co-owner of David's Bookshop in Letchworth GC, knew nothing of this apology until The Comet showed him the press release.
He said they had "not been reassured on any point by NHDC" and had yet to hear from the council directly, despite having written outlining their reactions.
Mr Armitage added: "NHDC talks about a misunderstanding but then goes on to say that the higher fees would only apply for certain larger businesses - we fear that we will fall into that category.
"David's Bookshop as a business pays over £20,000 per year in business rates for its three shops.
"This is already a hefty contribution to the NHDC budget, perhaps not reflected in services received.
"Our outside book displays add to the vitality, social interaction and general enjoyment of the town centre.
"They enable thousands of old books to find new homes, adding to the sum of North Hertfordshire's happiness and saving space in landfill sites.
"They are, however, labour-intensive and not always strictly economic.
"Why must such an amenity be jeopardised in this way?
"If charges of this level are imposed, businesses will either cease their pavement trading or pass on the levy to their customers, in effect a tax on the people of North Herts.
"We note that the council is 'fully committed to encouraging traders who add to the colour and vitality of our towns'. We'll wait to see the depth of that commitment when we find out our charges, if any.