Quail lends backing to relief scheme

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THE Chairman of Banbridge Chamber of Trade and Commerce has welcomed a new scheme which aims to attract new businesses to the town centre.

The Empty Premises Relief, which came into effect on 1 April 2012, allows business ratepayers who move into premises which were previously unoccupied for 12 months or more to 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.

Joe Quail, Chamber Chairman said, “I am very pleased to hear about the introduction of this scheme. Any incentive which helps breathe new life into our towns must be welcomed.

“It’s especially beneficial for those who may be thinking of starting up a new business as the rate relief will help offset initial start up costs and give the company a presence on our high streets. We would encourage local business owners to take advantage of this initiative.”

The initiative was introduced by Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson, who added: “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.”

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