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Anger after The Three Hills in Bartlow near Haverhill has its business rates increased by 249 per cent

The owners of a village pub have been left reeling after its business rates were raised from £14,900 per year to £52,000.

The 17th century Three Hills pub in Bartlow was bought by Chris and Sarah Field in December 2015 and after a lengthy building and refurbishment programme it opened just over one year ago.

The business rates were then set at £14,900 and in January 2018 Mr and Mrs Field was told they qualified for full business rates discretionary relief until March 2019.

Two months later though, a new assessment was done by the HMRC’s Valuation Office Agency, which set the business rates at £52,000.

The owners Chris and Sarah Field and manager Emma Harrison outside the Three Hills in Bartlow. Picture by Mark Westley.
The owners Chris and Sarah Field and manager Emma Harrison outside the Three Hills in Bartlow. Picture by Mark Westley.

Emma Harrison, who manages the regeneration of the pub for the owners, said: “Someone asked him (the assessor) why the rates are suddenly so high and he said ‘well, you’ve invested so much money into this pub, so you are going to make lots of money.’

“You are spending money trying to build up sales and trying to pay your staff enough so that they won’t leave.

“All that stuff in your first year that you have to deal with and then they expect you to pay in excess of £50,000 in rates, which is completely wrong.

“I really believe they could make some concessions for businesses in their start-up years. We have yet to have a month where we make any profit. The margins are extremely tight in this kind of business.

“The Government says pubs are important for community spirit, then do something about them. Support them.”

MP Lucy Frazer was contacted to see if she could help with the business’ predicament, which included being turned down for discretionary hardship relief.

Lucy Frazer MP. Picture: Keith Heppell
Lucy Frazer MP. Picture: Keith Heppell

Mrs Frazer wrote to South Cambridgeshire District Council, which collects the rates set by the VOA,to get its take on the situation.

In a reply to Mrs Frazer on August 9, 2018, executive director Alex Colyer, explained: “The business has already been showing an ongoing deficit and therefore the paying of rates is not the reason for this hardship.

“The granting of relief would not take the business out of its deficit.”

The letter also confirmed that thenew rateable value of £52,000 ‘has taken the property out of the eligibility criteria for the the Discretionary Rural Relief.’

No such rural relief is available, said Emma, for any business paying more than £51,000 per year.

She added that the rates being charged to the Three Hills, which has six guest bedrooms, also makes no sense when it is compared to other rural pubs in the area that also have accommodation.

The Black Bull in Balsham,for example, has five bedrooms and has a rateable value of £34,000 per year.

A Valuation Office Agency spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual cases.

“If a ratepayer thinks the details we hold about their property are incorrect, they can see how their valuation has been calculated and update their facts, if needed, by registering with our check and challenge service.”

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