“JAW-dropping” charges for businesses with outdoor seating on Salisbury Market Place have come under fire from angry traders.

Salisbury City Council intends to introduce fees for firms around the square who seat diners outside (Journal, June 29).

Traders say the authority told them on Thursday that it planned to charge £10 a year for each square foot of outdoor seating.

Paul Henderson of Henderson’s Artisan Bakery in Oatmeal Row said the “jaw-dropping” charge would cost him about £3,600 a year on top of the “already expensive” existing business rates.

He said: “There should be no charge made to businesses who provide tables and chairs for customers if the council wants the Market Square to become a destination for locals and visitors, in a way it never was before.

“The city council has stated its desire to create a ‘cafe culture’ which we, among others, have embraced and it is completely unreasonable to then try to milk the businesses for as much money as they can.”

Mr Henderson added that the city council’s promises of improved cleaning had been “proving erratic”.

He said there had been little or no consultation about the proposed “punitive” charge that “bears no relation to any perceived benefit that businesses gain”.

“The charge seems to be entirely arbitrary and I am not aware of any research or benchmarking to how this compares with charges, if any, in similar sized towns.”

Mr Henderson vowed to campaign alongside other businesses to make the city council aware of how the “unfair” charge would hurt traders.

A petition “to show how public opinion supports businesses, and does not support the city council’s anti-business position” has gathered more than 250 signatures, he said.

Karl Regan of restaurant La Piazza said he was also being asked for £3,600 a year.

He said he was lucky to take £1,000 a year from the outdoor dining area and the extra charge could push him out of business.

“It’s horrendous,” he said. “We are devastated.

“All they are doing is pushing the little businesses away.”

City council leader Matthew Dean was not available for comment.

Salisbury BID did not respond to a request for comment.