Victory for traders is one-off

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A VICTORY by Nottingham shopkeepers in winning compensation for business lost through the building of a tramway is unlikely to benefit the thousands of small firms elsewhere blighted each year by other construction projects.

The Hyson Green Traders Association, which represents 100 businesses in a shopping district north of Nottingham city centre, objected to both the House of Commons and the House of Lords during committee work for the private Bill authorising construction of a tramway through the area.

The committees decided that a rider to the Bill, which became an Act earlier this year, should guarantee compensation of up to 70 per cent of lost gross profits to businesses losing revenue as a result of the construction work.

The council estimates it will have to pay pounds 1.5m to compensate 100 shops in the two years the building work takes.

However, a change in the law means that other schemes are unlikely to benefit from the precedent they have set. According to Duncan Field, a surveyor representing traders already blighted by Jubilee Line construction in London, future schemes will not be authorised by private Bill, but simply by a public inquiry procedure under the Transport Act. That will remove the mechanism the Nottingham group used.

The Nottingham tram system is one of a number that are planned. Manchester has been completed, Sheffield is under construction, and Birmingham is expected to be next. Tramways are also planned in Leeds and Croydon.

Mr Field plans a test case to broaden the scope of existing compensation rules, which do not order pay-outs unless the value of the building is permanently reduced. Shopkeepers near London Bridge have seen turnover fall by up to 40 per cent since 1991 as a result of hoardings and traffic diversion linked to the underground line extension, but London Underground says it is not allowed to make handouts.

Sheffield has been even worse hit by the laying of lines for the 150-mile Supertram system. There are more than 600 traders on the route, and Duncan Gillies of the Calm and Classical music shop said: 'The effect has been catastrophic.'

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