Headlines: May 14th, 2007



The Government has set out plans for new legislation designed to encourage empty shops, offices, factory and warehouse buildings back into commercial use. It is part of a package of measures aiming to create thriving urban centres by renovating empty buildings and promoting wider use of brownfield sites.

Local Government Minister Phil Woolas said the measures to modernise business rate relief on empty properties would, with a newly introduced allowance to support the renovation of empty premises in deprived communities, act as an incentive for the the re-use, redevelopment or sale of empty commercial property. Reform of empty property relief was one of the key recommendations made by Sir Michael Lyons in his recent report into Local Government Finance.

Businesses that rent premises are expected to benefit particularly from the changes. Under current arrangements, most empty commercial property attracts full relief from taxation for the first three months, and 50 per cent relief after that. Empty warehouses and factories have a permanent exemption from rates. Mr. Woolas said this could no longer be justified when Britain’s office rents were among the highest in the world. Charities and community amateur sports clubs will, however, get complete exemption from rates on any empty properties they own.

Mr. Woolas said, “The reforms will encourage owners of empty properties to bring them back into use, helping to create thriving and vibrant town centres. No-one wants to live or work next to an empty property, and it is frankly daft for the state to subsidise it when commercial rents are so high.” The reforms, he said, would support owners, occupiers and investors and most importantly communities as well as being good for the environment.