THE landlord of a town centre pub who has been told to pay almost £8,000 in council tax for an ‘uninhabitable’ flat above the venue - as a result of reforms to reduce the amount of long-term empty properties - fears it could put him out of business.

David Fisher, 57, bought the Commercial Inn on Summer Lane in 2009 and has since spent more than £200,000 on renovations.

Above the boozer is a flat that has no bathroom, no heating system and needs to be completely rewired - and it’s expected to cost around £30,000 for it to be made safe.

However, David was made aware last year that the council tax for the flat would increase by 200 per cent to £3,627.93 per year as the property had been unoccupied for more than five years.

David has been asked to appeal the decision with the Valuation Officer Agency (VOA).

He told the Chronicle: “The upstairs flat is derelict and damp so I can’t live there as I have a 13-year-old son.

“The only entrance to the flat is the same entrance that the staff use to get into the pub, so even if it was refurbished I wouldn’t be able to rent it out privately.

“I spoke to the VOA but I’m not computer literate so I was baffled with what they were asking me to do - I’m still waiting for a response from them as they said it could take up to 90 days due to Covid. The case has been suspended six times by Barnsley Council while I’m waiting for a response but I just don’t know what to do anymore - I’ve just got to try and make some noise.”

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David described the ordeal as ‘outrageous’ - and he feels that if his appeal isn’t successful he will have to close the pub for good.

“I’m so frustrated because I just want it all to be sorted out,” he added.

“If all the bills remain the same then I’m going to have to pay around £10,000 because of last year’s tax too - I just can’t justify that.

“I’m still not open because of restrictions so there’s no income at all - if I have to pay that bill then I’m going have to board up the pub, it would ruin me.”

A spokesperson for Barnsley Council told the Chronicle: “Currently, the flat above the Commercial Inn is chargeable for council tax.

“The owner has gotten in touch with the VOA regarding taking the property out of rating - this is not a decision we are able to make at the council.

“Though we can’t do anything until we receive a notification from them, we have put a hold on the outstanding council tax for the property, pending the outcome of the appeal.”

Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central MP, has been in touch with the VOA to ask that the Commercial Inn is reassessed as the flat is not habitable and therefore should not be rateable.

He said: “I very much understand and share the concerns that Mr Fisher has raised about the flat above the Commercial Inn.

“My office and I are doing everything we can to support Mr Fisher in this matter and have raised his case with the VOA.”