A PUBLIC meeting called to discuss business rates for commercial properties heard there was considerable disquiet at the way things were done.

Responding to demands from local businesses for clarity on business rates, the Lower Wensleydale Business Network hosted an open meeting at Leyburn’s Old School House arts centre.

Chaired by Richard Sanderson, he highlighted the many local concerns where apparently similar businesses in the town were paying differing amounts.

Paul Burkinshaw, a partner in Harrowells Solicitors based in York, outlined the changes to the valuation system.

Explaining the economic background to the recent re-valuation carried out in 2015 and implemented in 2017, he said the next would be in 2021 and then every three years – although that may change.

About the rateable value, he said: “It is quite complex and not a pleasant experience to challenge the valuation.”

Hugh Dorrins, head of property at SIA Group, compared the previous process, which was user-friendly, to now, which is faceless and has to be done via a computer.

In a question-and-answer session, several examples of more than twofold increases were cited and other apparent cases of unfairness where similar and adjacent businesses had very differing tax bills.

Lower Wensleydale Business Network intends to enlist the help of Rishi Sunak MP and may pursue a jointly-funded test case against the Valuation Office.

Richard Sanderson said: “This new business rate system is placing an unacceptable burden on small businesses and the future of trade in the area, particularly in the Leyburn area.”