EDINBURGH’S disastrous trams project is costing the taxpayer an extra £10m in compensation to angry traders.
Almost 300 firms in the capital have launched compensation bids for business lost due to tram works, at a rate of more than 10 claims per month against Edinburgh Council.
New shocking figures reveal 298 businesses are claiming to have lost out financially because of the tram works, which continue to cause road closures and widespread disruption.
The businesses will now receive 20% cuts on their annual business rates bills, costing the taxpayer around £10million.
Business leaders fear the figure will continue to rise.
Shop owners and West End Association member Michael Apter, said: “The trams will end up costing £1billion to build but will cost the city £1billion in lost profits.”
Government-body The Lothian Regional Assessor has decided 60 businesses at Shandwick Place, an area severely affected by tramworks, will be part of a compensation deal, including receiving backdated tax rebates.
But areas nearby, that claim to be just as badly affected, have not been included in the deal.
Claims from organisations on George Street, Hanover Street, Rose Street and Frederick Street have also been lodged.
Mr Apter said his business, Paper Tiger on Stafford Street had lodged a claim.
He said: “A business that is 25 metres from my front door is able to claim there has been a material change in circumstances but we are not. It is nonsense. I know what it has cost our business over the past five years.
“It has had a catastrophic effect on trade. Shandwick Place was closed for nine months in 2008 and is due to be closed until the fourth quarter of next year.”
After lodging similar claims to the Shandwick Place shops, around 100 businesses on Princes Street could be next to receive compensation, at the taxpayer’s expense.
If these businesses get their claim then major stores, such as Primark and Debenhams, which each pay more than £1.2m a year in tax rates, would save £240,000 per year.
Hundreds of smaller firms in Edinburgh are also now pushing for the rates reduction that would save them between £5000 and £10,000 a year.
Graeme Strachan, depute assessor, said: “There are currently 298 appeals lodged with the Joint Board relating to tram work disruption. Most of these relate to properties located directly along the route of the tramway. Appeals have also been lodged from streets in close proximity to the tram works.
“All appeals currently lodged require to be deal with my December 2013.”
The original budget for the trams stood at £375m but has since ballooned to an estimated £1bn.
The tram will now run from Edinburgh Airport to St Andrew Squarein the city centre. A plan to cut the route even further, stopping it at Haymarket, was scrapped after the Scottish Government threatened to pull its contribution.
Lesley Hinds, Edinburgh new transport leader said the council welcomed the decision to compensate Shandwick Place, adding she was optimistic that more deals would be granted.