Agenda item

Business Rates Relief - Town Centres (Agenda Item 9)

Report by Ellen Jolly, Executive Member for Income & Prosperity.

 

Maps will be the circulated on the day.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Income & Prosperity presented the report which proposed a pilot discretionary rate relief scheme to help certain new businesses in Dereham which met eligibility criteria.  The proposal was in preliminary format and the details would be determined in liaison with the Town Council and the Business Forum.

 

The Executive Member for Public Protection asked if the scheme could be rolled out to other areas if the pilot was successful.  The Executive Manager Growth confirmed that it might and explained that there would be further reports to Members once a more comprehensive examination of the possible initiatives to support Market Towns had been carried out.

 

Councillor Borrett supported the proposal to regenerate the Town centre and thought the Council could make a real difference.

 

Councillor Duigan asked if there was any opportunity to extend the scheme to encourage buy-in from local businesses.  He was advised that there was the potential for flexibility but the pilot was intended to run for 12 months.

 

The Executive Member for Place asked how the success of the scheme would be measured and the Executive Manager Growth advised that success would be judged by the reduction in the number of vacant units and charity shops in the identified zones.


OPTIONS

 

Option 1          Introduce a pilot discretionary business rate relief scheme for certain new retail businesses in Dereham. The scheme would commence in April 2016 for a 12 month period. It would offer up to 80% business rates relief for the pilot period and would be targeted at new businesses that meet all eligible criteria. The scheme as a whole would be reviewed on an annual basis.  Financial details of the scheme are shown within the attached appendix to the report.

 

Option 2          Do nothing; continue to offer the current schemes of retail relief, small business relief and the Government empty premises relief.  Details of the scheme are shown on the attached appendix to the report.

 

REASONS

 

1.     We have a clear corporate commitment to help our market towns to thrive in order that they in turn provide the required support to surrounding villages and hinterlands. We recognise that Breckland’s market towns need to be vibrant and busy, offering an interesting and enjoyable experience to visitors.  Out of town and online shopping have drawn many people away from town centres. Thus, businesses find it hard to sustain a presence on the high street. High rents, competition and business rates add to the problem. The result is void premises, a preponderance of charity shops in some town centres and low quality retail offer in others.

 

2   Breckland has an important role in facilitating the renaissance of its town centres. There are a number of ways in which it can be a catalyst of change and these will be described in a future report. However, it is important to be seen to act quickly in support of Dereham’s town centre. To this end, Members are asked to agree to the introduction of a discretionary retail rate relief scheme as pilot in Dereham from April 2016.

RESOLVED that:

 

1)          a pilot discretionary business rate relief scheme for certain new retail businesses in Dereham be approved.  The scheme to commence in April 2016 for a 12 month period. It will offer up to 80% business rates relief for the pilot period and will be targeted at new businesses that meet all eligible criteria. The scheme as a whole will be reviewed on an annual basis. 

2)          Members instruct officers to commence consultation on the precise boundaries of the proposed eligible zones of the town (map to be circulated at Cabinet), and with a view to developing Dereham specific-guidance notes and an application form.

3)          Members to receive two future reports. The first will recommend specific measures that might support Breckland’s five market towns, together with financial and other implications of these proposals. The second will report back on the success of the Dereham discretionary business rate relief scheme, and on any policy issues it might generate.

4)           

Supporting documents: