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 £16m county council scheme to improve roads for cyclists, pedestrians and bus users, set to finish in March 2019.

But as reported in the Oxford Mail, businesses affected 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 in Cherwell Drive, Marston said: “We are £10,000 down a month. “Apart from Betfred and the Co-op, the rest of us our 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.

He said: “I sent the rates claim off in September and I hadn’t heard anything back until I sent a third reminder last week.

“But they say they are now looking into it.”

ALSO READ: When the BP garage was left without fuel because of Access to Headington roadworks

Gabriel Ciobanu, the manager at Pizza Hut, also in Cherwell Drive, agreed that business was tough. He said people were saying ‘no thanks’ and finding somewhere to order food that was easier for them to reach.

He said: “It’s a pain. The traffic means everything takes 15 to 20 minutes longer and we have to call customers and tell them that it will take longer because of that.

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

“This time last year we made £10,000 for the month, and now we’ve made just £8,500. “We still need to pay staff and two drivers.”

Oxfordshire County Council, the authority 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 road because trade was so badly 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.”

ALSO READ: Access to Headington delayed by two weeks 

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 though.”

He said a lot of other shops would struggle more because they were ‘pit-stop’ stores.

He said: “People can always go somewhere else to get a bottle of wine, but our nearest similar store is 50 miles away.

“Customers do not come if they can’t get past though. “Our rate value is too high, we pay too much.”

A spokesman 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 that there was 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.”

ALSO READ: Residents kept up at night by Access to Headington roadworks

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

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

A spokesman 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.

“We will shortly 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 shops, hospitals and schools in the area, but improvements 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 roadworks, businesses are able to apply for business rate reductions if believe they have a case.”

The Valuation Office Agency failed to comment.