Saturday, 13 September 2008

Empty properties and business rates.

Another 'In brief' in Retail Week tells us of the fact that Asda is demolishing a property to avoid the payment of rates on an empty property.

This change in the rules that has been in force this year has all the hallmarks of another classic 'good idea' by an ill-informed civil servant that has the potential for so many unintended consequences that the Government ought to be embarrassed.

I can fully understand why Asda would take such a step, but as a large company they had the benefit of owning the whole kit and kaboodle of the building without there being any hint of residential accommodation being associated with it. In my experience SMEs, where they own property, often have leases (so are not the ultimate owner) thereby in in a position to demolish. They will also frequently have residential accommodation in some form associated with the premises - this means that planning permission would be needed in order to demolish and that that would probably not be granted where the building is seen to be perfectly serviceable.

It is to be expected then that those who can demolish, will; probably wasting perfectly good buildings with all the attendant detriment that the process will have to the environment and the Government's green credentials. It will also be expected that those least able to do anything to ameliorate the effects of paying a heavy tax on an unearning property will be the smaller business.

Many might argue that the best way to avoid paying rates on an empty property would be to occupy it and to trade from it - but that flies in the face of the market reality as it currently is. Hey ho, how many times must it be said that this country would benefit from having a period when fewer laws, regulations and rules are introduced - because that way those that do make it to the statute books might be workable, fair and actually achieve their intended outcome without dire consequences that the authors have not considered.

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