Haywards Heath butchers under threat of closure

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A traditional family butchers, which has been in Haywards Heath for almost 30 years, might have to close due to high rent and rate costs.

Ed Middleton, managing director of Natural Farms Limited which owns A&K Smith & Sons in The Orchards, is concerned that the business will have to close at the end of this year if the rent and rates cannot be lowered.

A & K Smith & Sons, high rents in the Orchards may mean that it will have to close. Pictured Phil Lisney, and Luke Welch

A & K Smith & Sons, high rents in the Orchards may mean that it will have to close. Pictured Phil Lisney, and Luke Welch

Mr Middleton said: “Despite the increase in sales by 25 per cent since we bought the business it is unviable with rates of almost £15,000 plus per year. We cannot continue to operate at a loss.

“If we cannot get this rates bill, and separately our rent bill, reduced we are going to have to shut the shop at the end of the year when we have a break clause.”

Business rates are calculated based on the rateable value of the premises, which is based on the open market rent of the property.

This rateable value is decided independently by the Valuation Office, an executive agency of HM Revenue and Customs.

As Mid Sussex District Council collects the rates Mr Middleton contacted his local councillors.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards, councillor for Heath Ward, Haywards Heath, said: “Although business rates are collected by Mid Sussex District Council, the council does not have the power to change the valuation or the percentage at which the rates are levied.

“I have advised Ed that he has the power to appeal against his current valuation as it was last calculated in 2010 and, clearly, the economy and town centres are in a different position three years on.”

A small business rate relief is available, however, businesses paying more than £18,000 in rent a year are not eligible.

“There is no small business rates relief, despite the shop having only three employees, this is because our rent is over £18,000 per year,” said Mr Middleton. “We have a good trade in the shop but we are only a small business and the shop simply cannot sustain the size of the rates bill.”

In relation to the rent of the premises Mr Middleton is currently in negotiations with the head office of The Orchards.

Nicola Bird, centre manager, said: “All negotiations are at a higher level and have never been part of the centre manager’s remit.

“Ed is such a lovely man and the store is a true asset to the Orchards, so I hope an agreement can be reached.”

Mr Middleton added: “I am proud of the service we offer our customers at A&K Smith & Sons but ultimately we are a business and we cannot continue to operate at a loss.”