Businesses in Winchester have expressed their fears for the year to come - and have called for more support.

Independent firms on the High Street and The Brooks expressed their frustration over what they say is lack of support from Winchester City Council, Winchester BID and the government.

Many said they felt that rates were too high, parking too expensive and that there was a lack of support.

READ MORE: Winchester businesses get Winter Support Payment granted

Business owner SammyJo Avril-Andreassen, who runs the The Body Solution Wear in The Brooks shopping centre, expressed her frustration.

Hampshire Chronicle: The Body Solutions Wear owner, SammyJo Avril-AndreassenThe Body Solutions Wear owner, SammyJo Avril-Andreassen

She has run the women's sportswear shop, selling premium apparel, since 6 July 2021, however she is worried for what lies ahead.

She said: "October was dead and November was absolutely depressing. It was just enough to cover my bills.

"2022 is going to be extremely challenging. It's really hard to have high bills and very little coming in to meet those bills.

"I haven't been given a grant. I have absolutely zero help.

"I have been asking the council to cut down my rates but they have done absolutely nothing. I don't qualify for grants to apply for and I'm getting no support.

"I can't stand on my own feet but the government want me to pay them rates. It makes me super angry.

"This centre isn't popular and people don't come here. I'm not getting the support."

James Ashby has run Ashby's cafe in St. Thomas Street Winchester, since December 12.

He said: "There hasn't been enough support at all. The constant scaremongering and unknown is putting fear into people and people don't know what to do.

"That affects businesses. There's a grant which becomes available in January but it's pittance compared to what the damage which is being done without any action, so I don't believe there is enough support out there for small businesses, that's for sure."

Abbie Connell, owner of Pet Pantry, a pet shop in High Street, said: "Business rates still applied even though trade was down. We still had to pay and they didn't support us at all."

Hampshire Chronicle: Pet Pantry owner, Abbie ConnellPet Pantry owner, Abbie Connell

Independent businesses aren't the only businesses suffering the affects of Covid-19 and lockdown, rent hikes and a lack of support, with popular seafood restaurant Lock Fyne closing its doors of its restaurant in Jewry Street in March 2021.

SEE ALSO: Post Office in Upper High Street Winchester has closed

Greg Sage, corporate affairs director, said: "This has been an extremely difficult decision to make, but unfortunately the challenging trading environment, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, means our Winchester Loch Fyne restaurant is no longer viable.

"The Covid-19 crisis has been an extremely challenging time."

However, Cllr Martin Tod, cabinet member for economic recovery, said the council has offered a variety of different support packages.

He said: “As soon as it became clear how local businesses were being affected – directly and indirectly - by the Omicron Covid variant, the city council prioritised fast tracking a revised grant programme to support them.

"Shortly afterwards, on December 21, the government announced a top up to the discretionary Additional Restrictions Grant Fund which has enabled us to increase the grant value to eligible applicants.

"The fund will offer much-needed support to businesses that continue to be impacted by the pandemic. Since the outbreak, the city council has made over 9,000 grant payments to businesses across the district, distributing in excess of £50m grant funding. I’m really keen that we continue to help as many businesses as possible and this grant plays an important part in our work to help the district’s economy recover.”

The council has also launched a new Winter Support Payment Grant scheme to help business, the deadline for applications is Tuesday 25 January.

Hampshire Chronicle: Earthian owner, Katie CamplingEarthian owner, Katie Campling

Executive director for Winchester BID Paul Spencer called for more reform.

He said: "Business rates are set by central government and indeed many argue the system needs to be reformed. Nevertheless, government is providing a temporary business rates relief for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure businesses and are freezing the business rates multiplier for a further year. Winchester City Council are now distributing the new Omicron Hospitality and Leisure Grants which were announced before Christmas.

"There is also additional discretionary funding for local authorities to support other businesses and we will find out more about this very soon. Throughout the pandemic the BID has lobbied for further support for businesses and communicated with government about the impacts locally."

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Kimberley Barber