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Retailers back website to support rate relief on empty shops

The British Property Federation (BPF) has launched a website empty to help gain support to reinstate business rate relief on empty commercial properties.

The website, so far backed by retailers including Asda and Tesco and the Confederation of British Industry, aims to provide a way for businesses to catalogue the effects of the increased tax.

Business rate relief, which allowed businesses to pay only half of their business rates on empty properties, was cut last April, and the BPF wants the relief reinstated.

The BPF has criticised chancellor Alistair Darling for pressing ahead with the removal of the relief in the recession.

Chief executive Liz Peace said: “We’re not asking for any bailouts, we just want fairness, and taxing empty space is simply not fair. Making firms face the double hit of recession and then a tax on that recession will simply make things much worse, and that’s what we’re seeing. Demolitions will continue, new investment won’t happen and the misery of thousands of hard working individuals will be heightened.”

The Federation of Small Business urged the government to reintroduce empty rate relief immediately in response to the economic downturn.

National chairman John Wright said: “Taxes on empty property create an unnecessary financial hardship for small business, compromising regeneration schemes and constrain the supply of affordable commercial property. this tax should ultimately be scrapped.”

The BPF said that in the UK 90,000 shops were vacant in February, up from 63,500 in December.

Darling yesterday changed plans to introduce a 5% increase on business rates, cutting it to 2% this year, with a further 3% over the next two years.


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