A struggling business owner has been forced to cash in his pension early after being hit with a £16,000 bill he must pay in order to turn an empty Worksop shop into a cocktail bar.
Wesley Chesters obtained planning permission from Bassetlaw District Council to take over the unit, which has stood unoccupied on Bridge Place for more than four years, in September.
However, he says that “not once” during the planning process was he informed he would have to pay a £16,000 levy on top of business rates.
Mr Chesters, who also owns Worksop’s Rewind nightclub, said: “Who has £16,000 to throw away? I am not Mr Wetherspoon, I am not Mr Yates – I am a one-man- show trying to get a new business off the ground.
“I’ve already forked out £6,000 to get started, and as there’s no turning back I now have no choice but to take the £16,000 out of my pension – so who is going to look after me in my old age?
“I have owned several bars in the past, but I’ve never heard of anything like this.”
Mr Chesters said the charge was “particularly shocking” due to the fact he was investing in an area of the town in need of regeneration.
“There are about five empty units on this stretch of road,” he said.
“In fact the unit I have taken on myself is currently a complete eyesore – it used to be a hairdresser’s, but has been empty for nearly five years.
“What’s sad is I have great plans for this place.
“The bar is called Fat Cat’s Surf Shack and will feature a custom-made bar in the shape of a ship, along with life-size pirates and LED lighting.
“I eventually plan to open it during the daytime and sell coffee and cakes here, so the bar will appeal to town centre visitors night and day.
“I don’t understand why something like that is being penalised by the council and not supported.”
Beverley Alderton-Sambrook, head of regeneration at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “The council has an ambition to bring empty units back into use and where possible is supportive of businesses who share the same ambition.
“We will work with developers in any way we can.
“However, CIL is a national regulatory scheme the council has chosen to implement and, unfortunately in the case of Mr Chesters, we are unable to deviate from the criteria set by Government regulations.
“A Community Infrastructure Levy is a charge local authorities in England and Wales apply to development in their area in order to pay for the infrastructure needed to support this growth. Bassetlaw adopted CIL in September 2013.”