BUSINESSES in a Northumberland valley which fear the impact of a road closure caused by a landslip are set to be given a financial boost.
Shops and other ventures in Rothbury and the Coquet valley are gearing up for a tough year after one of the main roads into the village was closed following a major landslide.
Most recent estimates were that it would remain shut for 12 months, or even until the latter half of 2014.
Now Northumberland County Council has identified a number of firms that could be eligible for business rate relief and is to encourage others to apply for the reduction.
The move has been welcomed by one businesswoman, although she argued all companies should automatically be eligible.
The surface of the B6344 at Crag End began to move on Boxing Day, before a section of the carriageway collapsed, forcing county officials to close the road.
It has now emerged that the county council has earmarked upwards of 30 businesses in the village and valley which could be eligible for a reduction in their business rates, of up to 100%.
In addition, the council is to advise other businesses on how to appeal to Revenue and Customs for a reduction in their rates and has notified the body that some in the Coquetdale area may pursue this. Among those hoping for a reduction is Tomlinson’s bunkhouse and cafe in the centre of Rothbury.
Proprietor Jackie Sewell last night said: “I think we should have some rate relief, we need something to help small businesses in Rothbury and the Coquet valley. I am very supportive of it.”
Ms Sewell fears people may be reluctant to make repeat visits to the village given the longer journeys they face as a result of the road closure.
The businesses were identified following a review called for by county councillor for the area Steven Bridgett.
He said those companies could save “many tens of thousands of pounds.”
“It is vital that we do what we can to support local businesses within Coquetdale, our communities are open for business but at the same time I want to make sure that we keep money within the local economy, business rate relief from County Hall and appealing to the Valuation Office at HM Revenue and Customs is the way to ensure this happens.”
The landslip is likely to cost between £3m to £5m to repair, and the council has applied to the Department for Transport’s Pinch Point Fund. Potentially, 70% of the costs could be met up to a maximum contribution of £5m.
The council is on the verge of awarding a contract for the work, but one of its engineers has voiced concern at the number of people ignoring warning signs, bypassing security fencing and trespassing onto the site “for a spot of sightseeing.”
The council is extending its fencing to make access more difficult while the National Trust is putting some on its land.
Meanwhile, two other less serious landslips have occurred in the Rothbury area since the Crag End incident.
One on the already closed road has been reported beside Armstrong Park football ground and another on the route from the village to Thropton.