THE owner of a Glasgow’s last surviving independent cobbler has warned that disruption caused by Sauchiehall Street improvement works is killing business and called on the council to slash rates.

George Rodgers, who has run Mac’s for more than 20 years and previously managed the Savoy Centre, fears his shop won’t survive until the £7.2million Avenue project is complete next Summer, saying: “I would need a spare £10,000 to get me through.”

He said the major blaze in March further along the street had only added to the misery facing by struggling retailers and warned that a failure by the council to act could lead to a, “beautiful avenue of empty shops.”

Kitchen firm Magnet is the latest business to crumble on the troubled stretch along with the Feast World Buffet restaurant, Pomme Frites, Five 2 Zero, Tipsy, Food Fillas, Rebel Lounge and Chequers. Further along, Watt Brothers, the city's oldest department store, last week, announced plans to switch to an alternative site.

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The £7.2million Avenue scheme will include improved street lighting, an avenue of trees and increased cycle and pedestrian space. The first phase of the project, from Rose Street to Charing Cross, is due to be completed by Summer 2019.

One a good day, Mr Rodgers says, he can take in £300-£400. On Sunday his takings were just £20.

He says he is in a 'Catch 22' situation because he can’t claim small business rates relief because he pays £20,000 a year rent and the upper limit for assistance is £18,000. Although rates are set nationally, he believes there is precedent for local authorities to intervene if traders are suffering. His landlord has already reduced his rent from £35,000, recognising his financial difficulties.

In England councils can reduce business rates bill with hardship relief if the firm can prove it is in the interests of local people.

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At the very least, Mr Rodgers says, there should be proper signs to indicate to shoppers that traders are open for business.

He said: “Businesses are being killed by the Sauchiehall Street Avenue Project – a scheme which we’re told will, ‘play a key role in the regeneration of one of Glasgow’s most famous streets’.

“Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, described Sauchiehall Street as, ‘a leading destination for shoppers, workers, students, theatre and concert-goers as well as people visiting bars and restaurants.’

“At the moment it’s a building site lined with To Let signs.

“You can’t see the shop fronts. You can’t cross from one side of the street to the other. There isn’t even any signage to tell you what is going on.

“In 18 months, when the project expected to finish, Sauchiehall Street may well be, ‘an even more attractive location and a welcoming gateway to the city centre,’ but I don’t have a spare £10,000 in my back pocket to get me through the next 18 months. It’s the same for many of the other local retailers.

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“It has turned Sauchiehall Street into an obstacle course that is putting off customers. I can show you my books and the impact of this work is obvious. It’s going to be great when it’s done but we need to survive till then.

“The fire at Victoria’s nightclub has just added to the misery. “

“The shops in the Savoy Centre are really suffering.”

Statistics from the Local Data Company show Scotland is already losing three shops a week and the Scottish Retail Consortium (SRC) has predicted that the rate of shop closures could double over the next three years. Business rates have been cited as one of the main reasons for collapse.

Mr Rogers said: “My business rates are £20,000 a year. My company, Mac’s, is classed as a small business but I can’t claim business rates relief through the Small Business Bonus Scheme because my business rates are too high.The upper limit for the scheme is £18,000. It’s a Catch 22 situation.

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“As the law stands businesses can’t claim compensation for disruption caused by road works. I accept that. But there are precedents for local authorities offering a reduction in the businesses rates to retailers hit by ongoing work.”

Business Gateway said it was aware that a number of firms were experiencing difficulties as a result of the works and added: "We would encourage any businesses who are looking for advice or guidance to get in touch."

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “While we appreciate there may a certain amount of disruption while this work takes place, the final result will be a substantially improved environment for local people, businesses and organisations as well as those who visit the area.

“No business should have entry to their premises impeded by this project, and we are always available to discuss how we can help anyone affected by such improvement work.”