Richard Moore, Director, Agency and Development at leading property advisers CBRE Bristol, has welcomed the decision to drop a controversial scheme that would have seen Bristol’s biggest retailers pay an extra levy.
Bristol councillors voted overwhelmingly to abandon the idea, which would have seen the biggest shops in the city charged a levy of 8.5% on top of their business rates.
Richard Moore said: “We are operating in a very tough environment both on a local level and national level and the so-called business levy would have sent out entirely the wrong message about Bristol at the wrong time.
“In the face of one of the worst recessions in generations and tough conditions on the High Street, the city has established itself as one of the top retail destinations in the country. The key to economic success is to attract new investors and new business into Bristol, and introducing an extra charge on large stores would have sent out entirely the wrong message.”
The scheme, which was originally proposed by the Green Party, would have affected 34 stores and raised around £3m in extra revenue. It was originally aired as a way of giving smaller, independent traders a chance to compete against national organisations. However, when the scheme was being considered by the council business organisations and retail experts all spoke out against the proposals.
Richard Moore added: “A lot of work has been done by our mayor to attract companies to Bristol and the surrounding area. From the very start, the message from George Ferguson has been that Bristol is open for business. He has been consistent in that message and a lot of firms and property professionals will be grateful that the levy appears to have been taken off the agenda.
“We are operating in what is still an extremely competitive environment and we should be doing all we can to protect our local economy. Companies and investors will always go where the best deals can be found and local authorities play a very important role in attracting and securing investors. If we told big businesses to expect to pay extra in Bristol they would simply have gone elsewhere. This kind of scheme plays right into the hands of rival cities such as Cardiff and Bath.”
There were also fears that a levy would scupper any chance of a new Business Improvement District (BID) getting off the ground in the city centre. Retailers in Broadmead are in the process of voting on a BID Scheme which would see an extra £2m worth of funding raised to promote and pay for improvements in the main city centre shopping district.