Owners of a farm shop outside Catsfield say they were forced to close because of extortionate business rates and are being hassled into clearing out their sheds.
Redcoat Orchard Farm Shop shut on Christmas Eve after being given a £12,300 bill from Rother District Council and were told to empty their barns as they were ‘part of the business’.
Cherie Cramp and Roger Castle, who run the farm on Catsfield Road, argue the business was unfairly valued and the sheds are used for personal use, including her prized model village.
The elderly couple, who have raised £20,000 for Brownbread Horse Rescue in their 11 years at Redcoat, said the debacle is causing them a lot of upset.
“We don’t make that sort of money here,” Ms Cramp said.
“We eventually would have stopped anyway but we didn’t want to be forced into it.
“It’s making us feel really poorly and sick with frustration.”
The couple in their 70s moved to the farm after 31 years in Battle, and have built a large group of customers with their shop, selling everything from pet food to furniture.
But more than four decades of trading, mostly for charity, is over thanks to the tax bill which is based on parts of the shop that are not part of the business, the pair argue.
To add insult to injury, all of the sheds need to be cleared out, meaning finding a new place to store their own pet food and Ms Cramp’s model village would have to be dismantled, much to her distress.
“The bug-bear really is when we have got sheds out there which belong to us but we can’t put any of our own stuff in it,” she said.
“We paid what we owe, it just makes me so cross.
“How the council is going about it hasn’t been nice, they are not very helpful and have no sympathy, they don’t care they just want the cash.”
The council said the farm shop had not paid business rates before because Rother was not aware of it until being told in September.
“If Mr Castle and Mrs Cramp feel the rateable value or effective date are incorrect, or that their premises should no longer be on the ratings list as it’s no longer used for business purposes, they would need to contact the government’s Valuation Office Agency directly,” a council spokesman said.
“As the VOA has not backdated the charge further, the owners have effectively avoided paying a tax for almost 10 years that all other businesses in the district are required to pay, and which is used to fund the local services we all rely on.”
The VOA has been contacted for comment.
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