Busi­ness­man pulls plug on hy­dro plan in wake of rates hike shock

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­times.co.uk

A LOCHABER busi­ness­man has re­vealed he will not be con­tin­u­ing with plans for a new hy­dro-power scheme in Ard­gour af­ter a shock rise in busi­ness rates was an­nounced.

Owner of Cor­ri­gan Con­trac­tors, Shaun Cor­ri­gan, who planned to build two new hy­dro schemes in Ard­gour told The

Oban Times he won’t be putting in a plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion for the pro­ject af­ter busi­nesses rates were re­vealed.

Mr Cor­ri­gan, who lives in Ard­gour and has had his con­tract­ing busi­ness for 10 years, said the schemes would have cre­ated enough re­new­able en­ergy to power up to 1,000 homes with green en­ergy.

The last pro­ject Mr Cor­ri­gan worked on cost £2.2 mil­lion, cre­at­ing 22 jobs for the du­ra­tion of the pro­ject, 12 of which were main­tained. His lat­est devel­op­ment would have cost around £ 3.5 mil­lion and cre­ated at least the same num­ber of jobs.

Mr Cor­ri­gan said: ‘ We have spent tens of thou­sands of pounds in the last year to get to the plan­ning stage, but now the busi­nesses rates have come out it’s just made the whole pro­ject un­vi­able. We were about to go to plan­ning, but we have had to re­con­sider the whole pro­ject.

‘We don’t know ex­actly how much our rates would have been, but it would have been about 30 per cent of the sta­tion’s turnover. No busi­nesses can stand up to be­ing taxed on their turnover.

‘ We have sent let­ters to all the lo­cal MSPs be­cause we are not your usual busi­nesses build­ing

It’s made the whole pro­ject un­vi­able ” Shaun Cor­ri­gan Cor­ri­gan Con­trac­tors

a hy­dro scheme. We are a lo­cal com­pany which em­ploys lo­cal peo­ple. The hy­dro scheme would sta­bilise our busi­ness and en­sure long-term em­ploy­ment of lo­cal peo­ple. We won’t go to plan­ning on this pro­ject un­less we see a rad­i­cal change in the pro­posed rates.’

On Tues­day, fi­nance sec­re­tary Derek Mackay re­ported in­creases will be capped at 12.5 per cent through the cre­ation of a new na­tional re­lief scheme.

He said: ‘Hospi­tal­ity busi­nesses, such as ho­tels and pubs, across Scot­land will see rises capped at no more than 12.5 per cent, recog­nis­ing the con­cerns that have been raised with me over the scale of the in­creases and the val­u­a­tion method­ol­ogy.’

Com­pa­nies work­ing in the re­new­ables sec­tor, in­clud­ing hy­dro schemes, are also said to be re­ceiv­ing fur­ther sup­port.

Adrian Lay­cock of Adrian Lay­cock Ltd Con­sult­ing En­gi­neers, which builds and de­signs hy­dro schemes, said: ‘The rates the gov­ern­ment are propos­ing are dis­as­trous. They will kill off hy­dro schemes.

‘ We are af­fected be­cause if our clients go out of busi­ness we will too. Some clients have al­ready can­celled plans with us be­cause of the busi­nesses rates. Some firms are fac­ing a 600 per cent in­crease.

‘The gov­ern­ment keeps say­ing it wants peo­ple to pro­duce more green en­ergy, but this is go­ing about it the com­pletely wrong way.’

Mr Lay­cock’s com­pany has de­signed and built two hyrdo schemes in Glen­finnan and had plans in the pipe­line to work on an­other, but the clients pulled out af­ter hear­ing about the pos­si­ble rise in busi­ness rates.

He said: ‘I em­ploy six highly- qual­i­fied en­gi­neers and if half of my clients go out of busi­ness my staff will too. What an earth is the gov­ern­ment play­ing at?’

In re­sponse to The Oban Times ar­ti­cle last Thurs­day, owner of the Tav­ern res­tau­rant in Fort Wil­liam, John MacLen­nan, said his busi­nesses could be fac­ing a 51 per cent in­crease.

‘ We are fac­ing a ridicu­lous 51 per cent in­crease in our busi­nesses rates com­pared to Tesco, more than likely the most prof­itable shop in the High Street, which is get­ting a 45 per cent re­duc­tion.

‘We have no op­tion but to pass th­ese costs on to our cus­tomers to en­sure the job se­cu­rity of our cur­rent staff.’

Coun­cil­lor Ben Thomp­son said: ‘I’m ex­tremely con­cerned the busi­ness rate reval­u­a­tion un­fairly pe­nalises tourism and re­new­ables in par­tic­u­lar. Both are very im­por­tant to the Lochaber econ­omy. I know of sev­eral busi­nesses that are con­sid­er­ing re­duc­ing their open­ing times, or cut­ting back on staffing lev­els, to lower their rates bills. We should not be im­pos­ing a tax hike that pe­nalises jobs.’

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