'Pathetic' decision to increase charges for Midhurst and Petworth businesses criticised

ks190214-2 Old Library Refurbishment phot kate...Gordon McAra in the refurbished old library..ks190214-2
ks190214-2 Old Library Refurbishment phot kate...Gordon McAra in the refurbished old library..ks190214-2

Concerns have been raised across the county following a recent hike in the cost of on-street seating for businesses.

A letter sent by West Sussex County Council to traders said the new fee that must be paid was £520 per year or tables and chairs must be removed.

The cost is up from £200 per year following an initial payment of £412 for a tables and chairs license.

'Ongoing financial pressures' were cited as one of the reasons for the new fees as well as feedback from user groups including the Royal National Institute for the Blind.

District councillor Gordon McAra (Ind) said: "It's giving heavy costs to the owners — that doesn't help their business at all. It's a pathetic decision to make.

"They have got to look after it and maintain it. It's just another tax on small businesses and it wont help them and for pubs who struggle at the best of times."

Mr McAra said the decision would lead to 'quite a few disputes' over who owns the land that footpath is on.

"It's a lot of expensive hassle," he said, "There is half a dozen businesses in Midhurst [that will be affected]."

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council has said: “It has been a legal requirement for businesses to have a licence for tables and chairs to be positioned on the highway for many years.

"A licence is required so the county council can assess each location for its suitability to ensure granting it would not pose an unreasonable risk to either highway users or customers, and is also important for the public liability of any business in the event of an accident.

“While the county council has not historically, actively enforced this requirement, the ever-increasing amount of tables and chairs now on the highway means intervention is now required in order to provide a fair and consistent approach across the county.

"Feedback from user groups such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind has highlighted some of the risks involved to visually impaired highway users.

“Ongoing financial pressures on the council’s budget mean that we do need to charge a fee to process applications and it is for individual businesses to decide if they now wish to pay to position tables and chairs outside their premises.

"We have delivered a number of letters across the county and we already received a significant amount of licence applications which are currently being processed.”