CLA speaks out against empty property rates

November 19, 2008

Recently introduced changes to the rating of empty premises will bring investment in new initiatives and innovative ideas in rural areas to a grinding halt – according to the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The CLA has called on the Chancellor to suspend the changes which mean that landlords are now faced with a full rates bill even when a property becomes empty because a business has failed or closed or simply moved on.

CLA South West director, John Mortimer, said the changes – introduced last April – will impose another unjustifiable cost on rural businesses and rural estates at a time when everybody is battling to contain costs. “We are entering a recession and now is not the time to be experimenting with rural landowners’ livelihoods. These changes were introduced without any assessment of the potential impact on the rural economy – and one consequence will be that rural estates will simply stop investing in commercial property for small rural tenants,” he said.

The CLA is concerned because the Government’s decision means that owners of commercial or industrial property will have to pay rates on buildings they have no realistic chance of re-letting in the foreseeable future

“Many commercial buildings in the countryside form part of a diversified farm enterprise. They offer start-up units or small specialist units to meet the needs of a particular industry and they become empty for varying periods as part of the normal business cycle. Now that the economy is in serious downturn, that is inevitably going to happen more frequently – but where is the justice in penalising the owners of these buildings? It will simply act as a disincentive to investment,” Mr Mortimer said.

The CLA says that the changes should be put aside and reconsidered when the economy recovers.

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