Blears signals empty property rates rethink

Massimo A. Allamandola suburbanstudio at
Tue Sep 23 14:52:07 BST 2008

Blears signals empty property rates rethink

Leon Walker,, 23 September 2008

The Government is considering changes to its controversial policy to 
force the owners of empty commercial property
to pay business rates, communities secretary Hazel Blears admitted 

Speaking in Manchester at a Labour Party conference fringe event, Blears 
said that the economic downturn had forced
the Government to reconsider its empty rates policy.

"Circumstances do change. What we've seen in the last few months has 
changed the economic landscape out there,"
Blears said. "When the empty rates programme was brought in there was a 
lot of empty property deliberately left empty.
The purpose of the policy was to have an incentive for people to let 
their property."

Blears said that the changing economic circumstances meant that the 
Government would now "need to look at the cost benefit" of the scheme.
She said that the policy was not now "hitting the same buttons" as it 
was two years ago.
"We need to keep that under review and see is it worth making any 
changes," she said.

Earlier at the same event, Peter Miller, development director at 
developer Westfield,
had told delegates that the empty rates scheme acted as a disincentive 
for developers.
"What incentive is there for us to continue promoting major urban 
regeneration schemes
if we are going to have to pay a penalty having gone forward with the 
scheme in good faith,
taken a leap of faith and pursued the development in the hope we can 
fill it?" he said.

"If the economic conditions persist and we have 20 to 30 per cent vacancies,
 then we have to pay rates, that's a double whammy," he said.

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