Finance Minister urges business community - ‘Apply now for empty premises relief’

FINANCE Minister, Sammy Wilson is encouraging business owners to take advantage of the Empty Premises Relief which came into effect on 1 April 2012.

Business ratepayers who move into premises which were previously unoccupied for 12 months or more can claim a one year concession, during 2012/13, that will allow 50% empty property relief to continue for a year.

To receive the 50% relief, ratepayers must submit an application to Land & Property Services (LPS) with evidence that the property, when last used, was used for retail purposes.

Speaking about the Empty Premises Relief, Sammy Wilson said: “I have listened carefully to concerns from the local business community about the high number of empty shops in our town centres. Local traders are not only continuing to face harsh economic times, but also a revolution in retailing, with online shopping and bigger stores taking an increasing share of consumer spending.

“The situation is getting worse and we’ve got to work together to address this downward spiral. It’s not good for business, not good for consumer choice and it’s not good for community life.”

“This relief is unique in the UK and it’s to encourage long term empty shops and other retail premises back into business. I urge anyone thinking of setting up a business in an empty retail unit to consider applying for this concession, to help them get established in the difficult first year. The new business doesn’t have to be retail, it doesn’t have to be town centre and the premises don’t necessarily have to be a traditional shop. Just ask Land & Property Services and they will be happy to advise you about applying.”

Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said: “These proposals for first year 50% rate relief for companies taking up empty retail proprieties will help both address the problem of vacant shops and support new start businesses in their first critical year of trading. Both this initiative and extending the Small Business Rate Relief schemes are strongly welcomed from our members given the challenging economic climate.”

Mary McCullagh, Cookstown Town Strategy Manager added: “Cookstown District Council welcomes the creation of the Empty Premises Relief Scheme as an incentive to bring long term empty shops back into use, helping to regenerate our high streets and core shopping areas. The scheme effectively allows for 50% rate relief for up to one year once a long term empty retail premises becomes occupied. The scheme provides opportunities for new businesses to benefit from a reduction in rates liability, which can assist in redirecting resources towards employment, product creation and investment.”

“I am fully aware of the challenges facing local businesses during the current economic climate, and I would encourage those eligible to apply to the scheme to ensure Cookstown continues to be a vibrant place to live, work and invest. I am conscious that the Empty Premises Relief Scheme will only apply to a minimum number of properties within Cookstown, however, there are other schemes offering reliefs to business ratepayers. Information regarding these schemes can be obtained from the NI Business Info website www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk or Cookstown District Council website www.cookstown.gov.uk”.

Owners of empty properties were sent details of the Empty Premises Relief and application forms by LPS earlier this week. Application forms are available by calling the LPS helpline on 0300 200 7801 or can be downloaded from the NI Business Info website: http://www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/emptypremises