Coronavirus support for businesses

This webpage will be kept updated as things develop so please check back regularly. Last updated 27 May 2020

We understand that Coronavirus (COVID-19) is already impacting business in the National Park. This is an unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation. We know from past experiences such as flooding and the Foot and Mouth disease that such major incidents can have a devastating impact on our rural economy. We are also aware of many examples of creative resilience shown by businesses both during and after such events in recovery. We will work with partners to help promote and facilitate such a response.

Whilst we as a National Park Authority are not in a position to provide legal advice or to provide public health advice we can help share the various resources available for local businesses. This webpage will be kept updated as things develop so please check back regularly.

For general information about the National Park Authority's response to Coronavirus please see statements listed here.

Government Advice

On Sunday 10th May the Government amended their restrictions on what the public can and cannot do and people are now allowed to visit the area for exercise/outdoor recreation. Overnight visits including those to second homes ares still not allowed.  People should remain in their primary residence.
Many non-retail businesses have now restarted work but pubs, restaurants and cafes are to remain closed. Some non-essential businesses can now re-open from 15th June but new measures must be put in place to protect staff and customers. See here for current guidance on which businesses are allowed to re-open or must remain closed.
Ignoring these instructions puts additional pressure on rural communities and services that are already at risk.
Anyone within the area should continue to follow government advice on how to avoid catching or spreading the illness including regular hand washing and social distancing. Anyone who is deemed vulnerable owing to age (70+) or underlying health conditions should stay at home.

Further details on this are outlined in the government’s Coronavirus action plan.

Government support

Since March, the Government has announced several measures to help support businesses during these times. To find out more visit the Government's Business Support page.

Measures announced to date include:

  • Business Rate Holiday Giving all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England a  12 month 100% business rate holiday. There is no need for you to take action at this stage. The government guidance detailing eligibility can be found here (PDF) and you can find up to date information from Somerset West and Taunton Council here and North Devon Council here.
  • Grants to small businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief of £10,000 and providing further £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses* operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value over £15,000 and below £51,000.  The District Councils are responsible for distributing the cash grants provided by central government to eligible businesses:  Somerset West and Taunton businesses should apply here. North Devon businesses should apply here.
  • Further Discretionary Grants for businesses that were not eligible under the initial scheme (above) will be opening from 1st June. Use the previous links to find out more and apply.
  • Tailored opportunities to review and agree payment plans for tax liabilities for businesses and the self-employed. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.
  • Reclaiming Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19.Details here 
  • Mortgage Payment holidays - Lenders have agreed to support customers that are experiencing issues with their finances as a result of Covid-19 through payment holidays of up to 3 months.
  • Food & drink takeaway services. Planning rules have been changed to support the food and drink industry offer take away services without the need for a planning application. Permitted development rights have been introduced to allow restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments to operate on a temporary basis for the provision of takeaway food.  There are conditions that must be met to benefit from these permitted development rights, including that the developer must notify the local planning authority if the building and any land within its curtilage is being used, or will be used, for the provision of takeaway food at any time during the “relevant period”. The permitted temporary change does not affect the use class of the main building before the takeaway use takes place and, at the end of the relevant temporary period, or earlier if the takeaway use ceases before, the building shall revert to its lawful use – i.e. the takeaway food use should cease, unless specific planning permission is otherwise obtained from the local planning authority. For the purposes of these permitted development rights the “relevant period” ends 23rd March 2021 and the takeaway food use should cease after that date, unless specific planning permission has been granted. Businesses wishing to diversify in this way are required to inform Exmoor National Park Authority. You can email us at stating your intentions or if you have any queries regarding this temporary change in planning rules. For those outside the National Park boundary you should approach your Planning Authority at the relevant District Council.
  • Launching a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme of up to £5m, and ensuring businesses can access the first 6 months of that finance interest free, as Government will cover the first 12 months of interest payments (extended from 6 months originally announced).
  • A Job Retention Scheme whereby employers can furlough employees who will be paid 80% of their wages during this time by Government up to a limit of £2,500 per month. There is a parallel scheme for the self employed. This scheme now extends to October with employers contributing to costs from August and importantly allowing partial furloughing (eg. a campsite could keep a member of staff on 1 day a week for maintenance and furlough the rest of the time). See the link here.
  • VAT for all businesses will be deferred until the end of June and businesses will have until the end of the financial year to repay those bills.
  • Protection for Commercial Tenants against eviction from landlords

To find out more visit the Government's Business Support page.

Advice for South West businesses

If you need advice, please contact the Heart of the South West Growth hub or call 03456 047 047 - they are offering a free advice line which can be used by all Exmoor businesses.

Intelligence gathering

Please keep us informed of any key impacts we may not be aware of.

Local response

Our National Park Centres are currently closed to the public but continue to provide advice and information via email / phone. ENPA's public car parks and toilets have been re-opened in line with the lifting of restrictions on travel for exercise/outdoor..

National Park Authorities across England are working together to share best practice and have also approached central Government about the challenge the situation poses to the rural economy and the need to consider planning and resourcing recovery programmes in advance.

Exmoor National Park Authority is participating in weekly meetings of the Heart of the South West Economic Resilience and Opportunities Group between Government and business representatives across Somerset and Devon to consider the resilience and opportunities to our businesses of an economic shock such as this and is also liaising with Local Authorities in a weekly call focusing specifically on business support.

The National Park Authority is also linked in to the Tourism Alliance, receiving and responding to daily briefings. The Alliance represent the industry on the Tourism Incident and Emergency Response (TIER) panel convened by Visit Britain to feed directly into Government in such times and this is now meeting regularly.

Planning for recovery - Tourism

ENPA are working with Visit Exmoor and several tourism organisations and councils on the Exmoor Economy and Tourism Recovery Plan.  Further details and the latest copy of the Tourism Recovery Plan can be found here.

Helpful links