April 12, 2019 2.43 pm This story is over 32 months old

Local Democracy Weekly: Call to empty landlords’ pockets to tackle empty shops

Property owners, sometimes miles away, have no incentive to fill their shops

It would seem councils are putting the ball for empty shops firmly in the court of Government and property owners.

We all know the argument of online shopping killing off the big businesses – something which threatened Debenhams earlier this week.

Councillors at a Lincolnshire County Council scrutiny committee however, put some of the blame for empty shop units on private investors purchasing shops as a way to raise cash. Property tends to increase in value, filled or not, therefore investors avoid paying tax on the cash values.

These properties will then find themselves sitting empty and gathering dust.

Councils already have ways of making residential property owners pay more for leaving homes empty because they charge council tax at a local level, however, business rates are set at a national level and local authorities have very little control.

This leaves property owners, sometimes miles away, with no incentive to fill their business premises, or convert it to housing.

Economy executive at Lincolnshire County Council Councillor Colin Davie called the issue a “big problem” and called for the Government to look again at the rules governing commercial properties.

Businesses often report that rents and rates are too high. They say this puts off entrepreneurs looking to start new companies or move on from startup incubation hubs.

Again, rates are set by the Government and property owners.

Suggestions on social media call on the council to buy the empty buildings themselves – which, judging by the above and the owners’ reluctance to sell, could be a huge cash sink.

That’s not so say efforts aren’t being made to fill shops, some councils have offered cash grants to rejuvenate shop fronts.

Just this week we reported on the owner of the former Millets in Boston finally taking action to restore their shop front with historical inspiration — DANIEL JAINES

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