Council demand tram cash from trader hit by works

Grant McKeeman outside his shop. Picture: Greg Macvean
Grant McKeeman outside his shop. Picture: Greg Macvean
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A TRADER who shed thousands of pounds a week while roadworks crippled his business has been asked to cough up almost £30,000 to help pay for the tram line.

Grant McKeeman, who runs the Copymade printing shop on West Maitland Street, has applied for a change of use permit to transform a vacant store he owns on nearby Clifton Terrace into a tapas and wine bar.

But he was left aghast when Edinburgh City Council told him he would have to pay £28,600 in “tram developer contributions” to see his business dream brought to life. The shock charge applies to all businesses along the tram route looking for a change of use permit.

But the size of the levy has left Mr McKeeman reconsidering his plans to cash in on the upsurge in trade in the West End.

He has previously estimated works for the £776 million trams project that shut down West Maitland Street for almost two years cost his business £2000 a week.

Mr McKeeman said: “I just find it ironic that for something that’s caused me problems for the last five years of my business here, they’ve now asked me to contribute to it.

“We’ve already spent a lot of money going through this process with architect fees and consultation on drainage. When I got the council bill, I thought it was a joke. What do they want there?

“Do they want somebody to come out of the train station and see a shop boarded up or covered in graffiti?”

Ruth McKay, Edinburgh chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said taking a financial hit of that amount to start up a small business would be beyond most traders.

She queried whether council bosses had not thought through the scheme to recoup the money spent on the trams project, saying: “Are we saying we don’t want small businesses necessarily featured on the tram line because we’re making it unaffordable?

“It should be taken into consideration how many small businesses suffered because of the tram works and to a far greater extent than some of the other larger businesses that might be able to sustain ­themselves.”

A council spokesman said discretion would be applied to each case, with traders able to contest a proposed contribution fee by submitting a financial appraisal and having their cased judged by the ­development management sub-committee.

The spokesman said amounts paid by small ­businesses for change of use applications was much lower than for new developments.

“In circumstances where a development project cannot bear the cost of developer contributions the council may reduce or waive contributions,” the spokesman added.