TRADERS in Barry feel the timing of new charges for outdoor signs and seats is a “kick in the teeth”.
As of today (July 1), businesses in Barry and across the Vale of Glamorgan will have to pay for advertisement boards or outdoor seating areas.
A Vale of Glamorgan Council spokesperson said: “We have introduced new arrangements for hospitality businesses that operate outdoor trading space on the public highway to allow the council to better manage such areas.
“From July 1, traders will be able to apply for outdoor space, street-café licences and advertising boards under a new system that sets prices according to the amount of space required.
“This information has been communicated to traders in writing along with guidance on the application process.
“Parklets, which are built out into existing parking bays, are one example of outdoor trading space.
“These will continue to operate on a pilot basis in areas of Penarth and be subject to the same application and charging process as café licences during the pilot period.
“The council has offered a range of support to businesses during the pandemic, including safety advice to help them reopen.
“Traders have also previously been assisted when applying for outdoor space, with the usual fee for licences waived.
“These changes have been approved by the council’s cabinet and have also been reviewed and accepted by the Environment and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee.
“Previously, licence fees for highway space such as this were set for three years and were not proportionate to the space required.
“The new charges vary depending on the size of the area and are paid for annually, making them more flexible and cost effective for smaller businesses. There is a direct debit option for café licences, allowing the annual fee to be split into monthly payments
“These new arrangements come with a more straight-forward application process. They will ensure a fairer and safer use of the highway and provide greater opportunities for businesses.”
Although traders have not opposed to these measures, some have suggested that it should be put on hold to allow financial recovery for businesses hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and for the mental wellbeing of business owners and staff.
Alison Moya, who owns My Favourite Pet Shop and Sleek & Chic Dog Grooming which are both based on Park Crescent, says she received a letter on Monday (June 28) about the charges coming into effect today (July 1).
Ms Moya, who has had signs outside her businesses for more than a decade, said: “I love my town and the people in it who work so hard.
“It’s an annual fee of £100 to apply for the sign with no guarantee they’ll say yes. I understand the health and safety aspects, but why now? Two of my stands don’t comply; replacing them and applying for licensing would cost hundreds.
“I’m not working at the moment due to suspected long Covid, and I’m still paying my staff, so can’t afford to invest in new signs.”
She’s disappointed as her signs – which she was always careful to keep clear of the pavement – helped her advertise weekly deals and special offers, bringing in footfall.
But she’s also empathised with people owning food venues, who will now have to pay hundreds each year for outdoor seating.
“Businesses are struggling to get back on their feet, so many small businesses have to use the outside area/pavement and now it will cost them money they don’t have.
“It’s not just the financial aspect; we need mental support and don’t need a kick in the teeth.
“These people are on their knees so why not put it in place but don’t ask to pay yet, maybe wait a year. Don’t hit people on their way back up because you’ll hammer them back down.”
Other business owners have also viewed their concerns about the timing.
Marc Cheshire, who manages Caesars Coffee Lounge on Holton Road, said: “At a time when we are already restricted in capacity this charge is ridiculous.
“Just as we are getting back on our feet after the various lockdowns, we are being hit by this charge which we see as totally unfair.”
And Katherine Marzano, who owns Fountains Tea Rooms on Holton Road, added: “This was really unexpected after the tough year we have had. We are also told that we will be charged £40 a chair for every chair we go over the allocation, this is so wrong.”
Some politicians have also raised concerns, Vale MP Alun Cairns said: “This is quite unbelievable, particularly at a time when so many traders are doing their very best to remain viable, to support their customers and to adhere to the Covid regulations.
“At the very least, this proposal should have been shelved until after we are through the pandemic. This approach is desperately out of touch and I urge the council to reconsider.”
Conservative councillor Leighton Rowlands added: “I’m with local traders who are angered that the Vale Council has used emergency powers to push these charges through at a time when businesses are struggling.
“The Vale council has not even consulted with local traders on these charges.”