TRADERS are threatening legal action after Hyndburn Council sprung a shock rates demand for thousands of pounds.
Incensed couple Maxine and Michael Yardley, owners of the Tube Station in Peel Street, Accrington, said their dream of running a designer clothing shop could be ruined after the bombshell news that they must pay an extra £3,207 a year.
The couple only opened their business in March and claim council staff assured them rates were included in their annual rent of nearly £8,000.
Documents seen by the Observer specify an annual rate charge of £0.00, which other Peel Street traders said was the same as their agreement.
Speaking on behalf of the traders, Mrs Yardley, 41, said: "We thought it was unusual but the council assured us there would be no other rates demand.
"We have nothing to pay rates for. We had to build our own ceiling in the shop and there's no water or bin collection, nothing. Now the council has changed its tune.
"We were the first to receive the demand so I went to ask about it and was told, almost laughingly, that the other traders' demands were on a desk and they were in for a shock.
"It's an outrage. I think the council has realised it's not been making enough money and is trying it on. But the traders will stick together and take action if we must."
Alison Melia, owner of the family business ANG Jewellers, said: "The council can't get away with this because rates were included in the agreement, there was no mention of a separate demand.
"It is really hindering business in this town. It is killing the shops off. Accrington could be booming if it gave traders half a chance."
Steve Riley, of Riley's Videos and DVDs, said: "The new demand will have a massive impact on business, because it's already a struggle. I will shut the shop before I pay the demand because we are fuming about this. It's a total cheat."
Joe McIntyre, chief finance officer at Hyndburn Council, said: "The tenancy agreement states that the units are let with rent payable to the council as the landlord of the properties, and that business rates are to be paid separately to the council and are outside the tenancy agreement."