Increased charges on Bognor businesses 'not realistic'

Bognor Regis Arcade, picture via Google Streetview
Bognor Regis Arcade, picture via Google Streetview

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.

Mark Hammersley, who manages Warrens Bakery, said the charge seemed to come 'out of the blue'.

Mark is set be landed with a bill of £520 per year for two tables and eight chairs.

"We were told it was part of our land and when we first had them out there we were told we don't have to pay."

Aside from the shock of the charge, Mark also has concerns about it being the same cost for all business, no matter the size or number of chairs and tables.

"It should be based on how many you have out there or the floor space you cover. Some of us can't pay that amount of money for such a small amount of tables and chairs. I appreciated there needs to be a licence but it shouldn't be one price for everyone.

"They are meant to be helping business but it feels like the council is just putting another charge in place. It's not realistic or fair."

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council 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.”