Urgent action needed for forecourts in NI
“The proposal to exclude petrol station operators with more than 300 m2 of selling space from the business rate relief is ill-thought-out and cannot be justified as all forecourt shops are being affected equally by the Governments actions to combat Coronavirus and so all forecourt shops must be treated equally irrespective of the size of the selling area,” said Brian Madderson, Chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA).
The Northern Ireland Government has recently confirmed its COVID-19 business relief packages extending the rates “holiday” to 12 months for specific retail and hospitality sectors. These included petrol stations with some of the main group operators facing a 70 per cent average volume decline across their network and some smaller, rural stations experiencing a decline of over 80 per cent during the lockdown period.
However, Land & Property Services has subsequently proposed that only petrol stations with forecourt shops having less than 300 m2 selling space will be eligible for the full 12 months rates relief.
Madderson added: “The proposal is unfair to operators over 300 m2, who have seen their fuel and food-to-go sales decimated as much as those under 300 m2, as well as to the many small businesses operating concessions/franchises within forecourt shops such as Post Offices, Subway and local butchers/bakers”.
These small businesses are being penalised not once but twice:
- As they are not the rate payer on these stores, they are not eligible for the £10K Small Business Relief Grant
- As their Landlord is currently excluded from the full 12-month rates relief, they will not be offered any rent reduction
Madderson continued: “This new proposal is anti-competitive and completely unreasonable. The PRA raised this issue with Finance Minister Conor Murphy nearly two weeks ago, but we have yet to receive any response.
“We are advising our members in Northern Ireland to raise their concerns directly and hope that our concerted efforts and those of their representatives from all parties will help to bring some sense to this administration.”