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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2017-05-08

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page


Birkdale Trading Estate issues highlight a growing national problem

THIS year we have had several issues reported to us about a growing concern for small businesses, not just in this area, but nationally. The issues are related to property, or should we say lack of property, along with the lack of help available for many small businesses to be able to buy property. Increasingly small businesses are finding rents escalating, alongside pressures of increasing wages and business rates. These and other hidden costs, including water and electricity, are having a devastating effect on our high streets.

This is well known, but there is also an insidious issue which is having an effect on businesses who use trading states. With the increasing search for land for housing, exerting pressure on small land owners, many trading estates are vanishing, taking with them a number of start up businesses and often jobs. The small businesses individually might not employ many people, but when added up, they form a significant part of our job market. A small business on a trading estate might grow to become the next major market leader.

Most of ur small inventions that have lead to huge things have started with a small manufacturer on a trading estate or local small unit industrial estate. For that reason these places play a major role in both the current and future economics of a community and perhaps of our country.

Sadly, if a small business has to move, there is shockingly very little financial legal or logistical support. Big businesses have financial clout and experienced staff to facilitate moving a business. Often they also have Councils or maybe even Governments moving heaven and earth to help secure new premises, yet small businesses do not have this ability, or availability of cash. For that reason if they do have to move, the problems are amazinglyhigh. For small businesses, the loss of rented accommodation can break them, as many find impossible to locate new premises. Often they incur massive overheads, from legal bills sorting out new agreements, insurance issues, and redirection of mail; phone contracts are often affected, in some cases a new number has to be issued, leading to more problems... How do customers find them? They will then be required to do new advertisements, change letterheads, signage, website updates, Facebook, Google, Twitter and the list goes on and on. All these increase there overhead costs, and thus perhaps less attractive to banks and other lenders.

Birkdale Trading Estate has had many thriving small businesses operating there for many years. These businesses offered skilled jobs and good wages. Sadly the land has recently be sold to Aldi who are going to build on the site in the next few months. This resulted in the loss of premises for those businesses that had been located on the estate. The new store will bring in 30 to 50 new jobs, but the knock on effect will be quite significant. In addition to being able to offer a large range of cheap foods, the store will have a 100 vehicle plus parking area, whereas the local shops near the development have suffer from only having on street parking. So many of them are now going to face a harder future.

The closure or moving of the businesses located on the estate, has had a devastating effect on the local job market. As 1 of the businesses who has been forced out has said:- "Yes, the store brings in new jobs, but they are just retail jobs. You lose far more; as it's a national firm, it loses money that would be kept locally, from the local community. But what has shocked us the most is the fact we have had no support! We only got 3 month's notice and the lack of available property to rent, lack of support from the Council, lack of support from the banks and the list goes on, is shocking... More than ever, with Brexit looming, we need to support local businesses and encourage them to develop. Big firms just like the banks, will and do pull out of the UK at a whim, yet people forget that local manufacturing and local small business are what keeps the country moving. Yet when we need help, we just do not get it!"

At this point we have to say that Aldi has made an unprecedented payment to Sefton to help fund the building of new business units, but this has not helped the traders who have had to move off the estate.

We contacted Councillor Simon Shaw, a Lib Dem councillor for Birkdale Ward, who has expressed concern over the way that traders have been treated recently. He said:- "The businesses who used to be here had a reasonable expectation of being able to carry on without being forced off. After all, this land was zoned as a trading estate and this was confirmed in the recent Local Plan process, which included a lengthy Public Enquiry. Some businesses, especially those involved in light engineering, have been facing significant costs in relocating; effectively through no fault of their own. That's why, on Tuesday, I asked Sefton's Chief Planning Officer whether a small part of the ₤723,000 that Sefton Council is receiving from Aldi could be used to provide some modest compensation to those traders suffering from exceptional relocation costs. Unfortunately I was told that this was not possible."

This we think shows just how little planning is given to the accommodation and support of small businesses. As one of the affected traders said to us:- "Its OK saying buy local, but when you can't sell local how do you expect the public to buy local?"

We are doing a bigger report on this very soon and would like to know if your business has ever been affected like those formally housed on Birkdale Trading Estate.

Please email us to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com with your thoughts on this topic.


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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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