Retailers are bracing themselves for significant business rate hikes after the new rateable values were issued by the

Valuations Office Agency (VOA) last month. Paul Sewell, managing director at forecourt rating specialist MUA Property Services, said there was an average increase in the rateable value of sites of around 60%.

These values will be used to work out business rates starting on April 1, 2010.

Sewell added: "The main dealer range in the 3-7 million-litres-a-year category bears a disproportionate burden and we have seen many assessments at or close to having doubled, tripled and some have even increased by multiples of between four to nine times."

According to MUA, which has been working on behalf of UKPIA and the PRA to advise on valuations, shop sales have been capped at £2 million per year, which means they work in favour of the big convenience operators such as Tesco.

Andrew Lawrence of Lawrences Garages (London) said the rateable value for his sites had doubled. The government is still to confirm what pence in the pound companies will pay, but Andrew expected an increase of about £20,000 for his group (currently £90,000). He added: "It’s another nail in the coffin for smaller sites."

Adam Wadlow, partner at forecourt property adviser Barber Wadlow, said rateable values had jumped from £15,000 to £50,000 at one site. But he advised financial help would be available, including transitional relief in the first few years. He said: "The problem is that for many years sites have been valued too low. And they’re very difficult to value, with so many variables involved."

According to MUA, individual Rateable Values cannot be appealed until April.