SHOPS left thousands of pounds out of pocket by the Access to Headington scheme say a government delay in reducing business rates has exacerbated their problems.

The Government's Valuation Office Agency can temporarily reduce business rates if they are struggling from big disruptions like flooding, building or roadworks.

Access to Headington is a £16million county council to improve roads for cyclists, pedestrians and bus users, due to finish in March 2019.

But as reported in the Mail, businesses in Headington say they are losing custom because of the ongoing works and fear for their futures.

Now their problems have been made worse by the fact claims to the Valuation Office are taking months to be acknowledged.

Vicky Gough, the manager of Threshers off-licence on Cherwell Drive, said: “We are £10,000 down a month.

“Apart from Betfred and the Co-op, the rest of us are independent shops and the sales are down.

“When my boss sent his rates claim they said they would respond by October 20.”

Andy Hudson is the owner of Threshers on Cherwell Drive, he said: “I hadn’t heard anything back about the rates claim until I sent a third reminder this week.

“I sent the claim off in September and until this week I hadn’t heard anything back. But they say they are now looking into it.”

Gabriel Ciobanu, the manager at Pizza Hut also said business was tough.

He said people were saying ‘no thanks’ and finding somewhere to order food that was ‘easier’.

He said: “It’s a pain. The traffic is 15 to 20 minutes longer, and the problem is the same – we have to call customers and tell them that it will take longer because of the traffic.

“We are down 25 per cent on sales because of it, it’s very bad.

“Last year we made £10,000 this month, and now we’ve made £8,500.

“We still need to pay staff and two drivers.”

Oxfordshire County Council, the body in charge of the roadworks, said that signs have been in place to tell passers-by the shops are still open as usual.

But Kemal Koc, the manager at the Mediterranean Fish Bar, said that he was concerned for the future of his shop and others on the stretch because trade is down.

He said: “This is not good. Customers are scared of the roadworks, it’s a mess.”

“On the radio in the mornings they’ve been telling traffic to avoid the area, which isn’t helpful.”

Oxford Car Audio manager Mark Watson, said: “We’re struggling a little bit but not as much as the other shops.

“The passing trade is down.”

He added that a lot of shops will struggle more, because they are a ‘pit-stop’ shop.

He said: “People can always go somewhere else to get a bottle of wine. But our nearest place is 50 miles away.

“Customers do not come if they can’t get past.

“Our rate value is too high, we pay too much.”

A spokesperson at Oxford City Council said: “The city council does not set the level of business rates.

“The Valuation Office Agency sets the rateable value of business premises by using property details such as rental information.”

He explained that an appeal for claims on business rates would have to be made via the Valuation Office Agency – but there is another option.

He said: “The city council administrates a business rate hardship relief scheme, offered on a temporary basis, which may be applicable. However the applicants would need to show that they are both suffering financial hardship and that the relief would be in the best interest of the community.”

Dr Joe McManners, the city councillor for the Headington Hill and Northway, said: “We have a lot of sympathy for the shops on Cherwell Drive.

“We hope their application is successful and support them fully with it.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council, which looks after the roads in the city, said: “Signs have been in place to remind passers-by that the shops remain open as usual and the majority of the parking outside has remained available for customers during the work.

“When the works are complete the service road and area outside the shops will be much improved from the previous arrangement.

“New road surface and signalised crossings will provide increased amenity and access for walking and cycling, And parking is retained outside the shops for customers using their cars. The works near the shops are approaching completion, And will be substantially complete before Christmas, and we will shortly will be moving to cycleway areas adjoining the junction along Cherwell Drive and Headley Way.

“Works are planned in such a way to reduce the amount of disruption to traffic to important destinations such as the shops, hospitals and schools in the area but improvement such as these cannot be delivered without a degree of disturbance.

“Although, as set out by the Government, there is no compensation available relating to road works businesses are able to apply for business rate reductions if believe they have a case.”

The Valuation Office Agency were asked to be part of the story, but did not reply.