You may have read reports that the council ‘gave’ £100,000 to a restaurant business in Huyton, as well as a year’s free rent.
These reports are incorrect, and here’s why.
Knowsley Council is not even the landlord of this business – therefore any rent arrangement is between the landlord and the tenant – nothing to do with the council.
Initial rent free periods are quite common when new tenants need to do major works to properties, particularly when there is a change of use. But, in this particular case, the media reports are just wrong because the council has nothing to do with the rent for this property.
With regard to the suggestion of a £100,000 “gift” to the business, again media claims are misleading.
This money was not gifted to the owner of the business, but was actually used directly to renovate and refurbish the façade of a dilapidated and unused area of Huyton Village. Without spending that money on the building, there was no prospect of attracting any new use.
And the money was spent on the building. If the business owner decides to move on at any point in the future (and of course, the council hopes that he won’t), the building will continue to be fit for purpose and ready for a new occupier. The £100,000 was also actually used to renovate a building which houses two businesses, and not only the tapas restaurant.
This is all part of making Huyton Village Centre better – something we all want to see
The regeneration and redevelopment of Huyton Village is a top priority for Knowsley Council and for local people. With this priority in mind, the council is delivering a programme of improvements across the Village Centre and trying to bring long-term empty units back into use.
Knowsley Council has invested in shop front improvements to improve the look and feel of the Village Centre, and held a programme of ‘Huyton Live’ events throughout the year to increase footfall and support local businesses.
This focus on the Village Centre has been successful in securing a number of new independent businesses, including the Coffee House, Eton Place and El Pueblo, whilst “Common” (in the old NatWest Bank building) is due to open soon. The introduction of these food and drink offerings has been overwhelmingly welcomed by local people who have wanted this kind of leisure offering in Huyton for some time. The fact that these are independent businesses offering something unique to Huyton is also helping to build a real buzz and individuality to the Village Centre. The introduction of independent cafes, restaurants and bars in Prescot has done wonders for the town – and the council wants to see the same in Huyton.
Knowsley Council makes no apologies for wanting to support entrepreneurship and encourage investment in Huyton Village Centre.
The ground floor of the building which benefited from the £100,000 investment had been vacant for a long period and the façade was in a poor condition.
This was the third phase of the Shopfront Improvements programme and more phases are to come. The first few phases have made a massive difference to the look and feel of the Village Centre and are already improving footfall and encouraging further businesses into the Village. The before and after impact of this work is clear for all to see.
Huyton Village shop improvements – swipe for before and after
How are payments made?
If the council owns buildings which are being renovated through this programme, it pays the contractor directly. If the building is not owned by the council, it reimburses the business owner once it has seen evidence that the contractor has been paid and the council has also signed off the standard of the work.
It is true that the owner of this particular restaurant in question had fallen behind with his business rates payments. His explanation was that he had been focussing on the fit out of the new restaurant so that he could open it as soon as possible.
The council seeks to collect all business rates due and currently collects more than 98.5% of due business rates in a year. As with all accounts, anyone who is not up to date with their payments is subject to recovery action. This restaurant owner has been treated exactly the same as any other business and is now fully up to date with his rates in line with his payment plans.
A revitalised town centre is the long term aim
In summary, if the council is to achieve the longer term aim of a revitalised town centre with a strong retail and leisure offer in Huyton, there will be a need to invest money, do things differently and be proactive. If the council is not prepared to invest in the area, nothing will happen to address the challenges which high streets are facing across the country.
Investing in the borough’s town centres is an absolutely valid way for the council to spend public money. It makes the borough a better place to live, work and visit. It’s what local residents want.
It’s frustrating that a local newspaper would choose to pour negativity onto what is actually a fantastic story for Huyton – investment, new businesses, entrepreneurship, and a better experience of living in the borough for local residents. Instead of an empty, unattractive shop unit, we have a new restaurant which is creating jobs and bringing people into the Village Centre, where they are likely to also shop at other local retailers and put more of their money into the local economy.
This is something to celebrate.