Lisburn backing for Empty Premises Rates Relief scheme

A SCHEME under which businesses opening in premises which have been empty for 12 months get a rates concession has been backed by Lisburn City Centre Management and the local Chamber of Commerce.

Under the scheme 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.

Finance Minister 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.

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“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.”

Lisburn City Centre Management and Lisburn Chamber of Commerce have welcomed the scheme.

Alan Clarke, Lisburn City Centre Manager, commented: “It is encouraging to see the Northern Ireland Assembly pro-actively bringing forward measures to tackle the very difficult economic conditions that many town and city centres find themselves in. It is hoped that this initiative will help to bring about a reversal of the current levels of vacant shop premises, particularly those vacant for 12 months or more.”

John Steen, President of Lisburn Chamber of Commerce added: “Whilst trading conditions are undoubtedly difficult there are opportunities, particularly for new and existing independent retailers to acquire premises on terms that represent better value than a number of years ago. For such businesses this Empty Rates Relief Scheme is certainly worth applying for.”

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: www.nibusinessinfo.co.uk/emptypremises