Businesses who have suffered as a result of a landslip closing a major route have been given a financial boost.
Shops and pubs at Rothbury who have lost trade since the landslide at Christmas led to the closure of one of the main roads into the village have been told their business rates will be reduced.
The news was last night welcomed by one trader in the village who said the road closure is having a significant impact on her income.
The surface of the B6344 at Crag End began to move on Boxing Day, before a section of the carriageway collapsed, forcing Northumberland County Council officials to close the road.
The route is one of the main roads in and out of Rothbury and used by visitors to National Trust property Cragside.
The road has remained closed ever since, with the possibility that it could be 2014 before it reopens.
Businesses feared their trade would suffer as people might be reluctant to make repeat visits to the village, given the longer journeys they face as a result of the road closure.
In March, the county council identified upwards of 30 firms that could be eligible for business rate relief of up to 100% and was to encourage others to apply for the reduction.
At the time, Rothbury councillor Steven Bridgett said the companies could save “many tens of thousands of pounds.”
Now, it has emerged that the Valuation Office Agency has informed all businesses in Rothbury that they are eligible for 10% rate relief.
A spokesman confirmed: “In recognition of the difficulties affecting retail properties due to the Rothbury landslip, we have temporarily reduced their rateable values by up to 10%.
“Pub valuations need to take into account their trade, so we will be working with licensees to review these individually.
“Rate bills and any appropriate reliefs are calculated and administered by the council, not the VOA.”
Last night, Jackie Sewell, proprietor of Tomlinson’s bunkhouse and cafe in the centre of Rothbury welcomed the move.
She said businesses like hers which rely on tourism, had already been told they are eligible for greater rate relief, of between 50 and 100%.
She said: “It has made a significant difference to Rothbury not having that road usable. It is not very much longer for people to drive into Rothbury but the perception for people is that it is longer. It is costing people more money in fuel and costs.
“The daytrippers are not coming again. They are reducing the times they would come.
“It is definitely having an impact. We are working twice as hard to keep it going.”
Coun Bridgett, who has been pushing the VOA and the council for the reductions, said: “I am extremely pleased that the valuation office has agreed to this reduction given the limited data they have received from Rothbury businesses and I would like to personally thank Dale Kirk at County Hall for vigorously pursuing this.
“This is a start, what I hope this does is encourage more businesses to contact the Valuation Office with their details which will hopefully result in further reductions in rates.
“I am also encouraging those businesses located further up the Coquet Valley, outside of Rothbury, that have been affected to also contact the valuation office and apply for reductions.”
Meanwhile, the council has given an update on repairs to the landslip.
A spokeswoman said: “Stage two of the ground investigation carried out on the unstable wet ground, which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, is nearing completion.
“The drilling operation has experienced many difficulties due to the ground continuing to move and because of the great depth of very soft material.
“Following the drilling of boreholes there will be a six month monitoring period of the ground water conditions. “During this time a contractor will be appointed to start developing design solutions for costing and consultation.
“The consultees will involve the Environment Agency, Natural England, The National Trust, land owners and the local community.
“We will be able to make the tendering process to the European Union significantly shorter than expected as we will be using an existing framework put in place by the Environment Agency.
“This has gone through the full European procurement process and is available for local authorities.”