Petrol price rise warning for Norfolk

Tracey GrayThere are warnings that petrol prices are set to soar to an all time high this year with Norfolk one of the worst hit areas.Tracey Gray

There are warnings that petrol prices are set to soar to an all time high this year with Norfolk one of the worst hit areas.

Nationally, the average price for a litre of unleaded petrol is 111.8p and 113.7p for diesel.

However, experts from the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) are predicting prices could rocket to between 120 and 125 pence per litre (ppl) by the second half of the year, which comes on top of an AA report rating East Anglia, along with London, as the area with the most expensive prices at the pump.

At the beginning of this year it was reported that fuel prices in Norfolk were creeping towards 116ppl for both unleaded and diesel as the return to 17.5pc VAT on January 1 lifted petrol prices by an average of 2.5ppl.

On April 1 the Government is set to increase fuel duty in line with inflation and add an extra 1ppl rise.

Brian Madderson, chairman of PRA, said 2009 was a tough year for drivers, but warned that 2010 was set to be tougher.

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He said: 'The predicted 10ppl rise does not take into consideration any increase in the world oil price, which is also a possibility and could add another 3 to 5ppl to forecourt inflation.

'We might well see pump prices in the second half of 2010 in the range 120 to 125ppl, setting record highs.

'It is going to be a tough year for both consumers and independent petrol retailers in 2010 and both are really going to feel the squeeze.

'We will be actively lobbying government to minimise the tax increases in order to protect the vulnerable rural filling stations and maintain the momentum of any economic recovery. Brace yourselves for higher fuel costs ahead.'

At the same time as fuel prices increase, independent petrol forecourt owners say they are facing being crippled by the rising amount of businesses rates they are paying out.

They claim the rates, which are reassessed every year, are being calculated unfairly as petrol filling stations are being rated on turnover, not on square footage like every other retailer in the country.

One member of the Independent Petrol Retailers Association, Andrew Lawrence, who operates several filling stations across the county, has written to Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, Mid-Norfolk MP Keith Simpson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, asking them to take action.

In his letters he states: 'This is a family business built up over four generations and this new business rate is one the biggest threats we have faced in over 80 years of trading.'

He says at his filling stations in Norwich - The Firs and Drayton Service Stations - he is expecting to see an increase in his business rates of 105pc and 95pc respectively.

At his Esso forecourt at Lynn Hill, in Dereham, the increase is expected to be as much as 50pc.

One Norwich garage owner, who runs a petrol station based in the city centre, said: 'The business rates are just going up and up; it is not a fair system.

'We face competition from these other places such as supermarkets. Competition can be healthy, but not in times of recession it is crippling small businesses.'

Norwich north MP Chloe Smith, added: 'I think it is absolutely vital to press the government over these business rates, especially as they have failed to do an impact assessment on how this is going to affect local businesses.'

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