COUNCIL chiefs today announced they were assembling a dossier of evidence to win a cut in rates for businesses affected by the tram works.
Shops in the West End, who say trade has plummeted because of the project, will be asked to provide details of exactly how the trams have hit their businesses.
The council will then present the case to Lothians assessor Joan Hewton in a bid to persuade her to agree to a reduction in the rates bill for struggling traders.
The council, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and trader groups have all pressed for rates reductions for businesses who say the tram works are now scheduled to last much longer than originally expected.
Several shops in and around the West End have already closed, blaming the loss of trade resulting from the project.
The council’s survey will focus at first on businesses in Shandwick Place, where major tram works began in March and are due to continue until the autumn of 2013.
A similar survey will be carried out in Corstorphine, which is not affected by the tram works, to help establish the true effect of the project.
The council says if the results demonstrate a material impact on rental values, it believes the assessor would have to reassess the current rates which were set in 2008.
Dave Anderson, the council’s director of city development, said: “The position of the assessor at the Lothian Valuation Joint Board has been that businesses affected by tram works would not be offered a blanket rates discount.
“Following consultation with local traders, we have gathered further evidence from businesses in Shandwick Place to try and build a complete picture of how works are affecting businesses in the West End.
“A similar exercise will be completed in Corstorphine, which is a comparable area of the city but which does not have tram works. If there is sufficient evidence to show that there is an adverse impact on rental values as a result of tram works, we feel the assessor will be duty bound to reassess the current rates.”
The council has written to all businesses which face on to a tram construction worksite, asking for feedback by the end of May. It said, in the meantime, individual businesses should still pursue appeals with the Valuation Board.
Ms Hewton said last month she was carrying out her own survey of West End businesses to see whether rents had been affected by the tram works.
She said current business rates already took tram disruption into account since they were last calculated in 2008, when work was under way.
But she said if it was clear that the tram works had depressed rental levels, she would look at adjusting the rateable values for those properties.