Councillors have approved plans to boost Argyll and Bute’s economy by bringing empty business properties back into use throughout the area.
Previously, empty industrial properties could get 100% relief from non-domestic rates for the first six months they lay vacant and a 10% discount after that. Businesses could get 100% relief for the whole time a property was unoccupied if they met a range of criteria.
However, by implementing new powers on the levels of relief available to empty business premises, councillors have agreed a number of changes to the scheme, including the following provisions:
- 50% relief for three months followed by 10% thereafter, except for Empty Property Relief (EPR) for insolvency. No relief will be granted after a property has been empty for over 12 months.
- Creation of a new post of Empty Property Officer for a period of two years, providing a single point of contact for the council with property owners and helping to coordinate activity across the region.
- The remaining Property Relief funding will go towards a Business Grant Scheme which will incentivise owners to carry out building works, internal decoration and improvements to fixtures and fittings, helping to bring properties back into use
In 2019, the Scottish Government committed to devolving EPR to councils in time for the next revaluation. However, both the revaluation and the devolution of EPR were delayed because of the pandemic.
A consultation carried out earlier this year with a range of stakeholders, including members of the public, property owners, community organisations and elected members, delivered valuable feedback on a range of issues.
The Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, Councillor Robin Currie, said: “This new policy is designed to maximise the use of these funds to revitalise properties across our communities. By bringing empty buildings back into use, there is real potential to create increased footfall in our town centres, create job opportunities, identify possible affordable housing and enhance the look and feel of community environments.
“The consultation provided valuable insights into both the challenges and opportunities around vacant properties in Argyll and Bute. The creation of a dedicated post of Empty Property Officer was a key element of the feedback received and will be a major benefit in improving communications with property owners.
“The overwhelming desire from stakeholders was for properties to be brought back into use to help revitalise our town centres and benefit communities across the region.”