Agenda item

Business Rates for the Dereham Pilot Scheme (Agenda item 8)

Report of Councillor Paul Claussen, Executive Member for Place (Health Lead).

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Place (Health Lead) presented the report which concerned the introduction of a discretionary retail rate relief scheme for the five market towns in Breckland.

 

The Executive Member for Place (Health Lead) was in full support of this scheme as it would allow small independent retail businesses a little relief.  He felt that the process should be kept as simple as possible to allow for a better take up. He further felt that this scheme should form part of the Market Town Initiative ‘umbrella’.

 

Councillor Clarke echoed the above comments. He had been disappointed with the lack of support from businesses in Dereham and drew Members’ attention to paragraph 1.4 of the report where it stated that some businesses had not been aware of the scheme. He therefore felt that it should to be reinforced and promoted accordingly.

 

The Executive Member for People and Information thought that the scheme was an excellent initiative as market towns, in this day and age, needed to be supported to encourage more businesses into the town centres.

 

The Executive Member for Growth echoed the aforementioned comments but pointed out that it was a very simple process - you either qualified or not.  Referring to Watton, in relation to the Wayland Partnership, mentioned in the previous Minute, he felt that the reinstatement of the Dereham Business Forum was very important as it would ease the interaction between the Council and businesses.

 

The Executive Member for Growth and Commercialisation was pleased that all Members were in favour of the scheme as any help to businesses would be welcomed.

 

The Leader had listened to the comments made about Dereham and asked how Officers were proposing to inform businesses of eligibility.  The Business Growth Officer advised that there were many ways that businesses could be notified but a full marketing campaign would be required.

 

The Executive Director of Place explained that he and the Communications Manager were already working on a Communications Strategy to promote the scheme.

 

The Executive Member for Finance asked if retail premises in rural areas would qualify.  In response, Members were informed that it would depend on the location and where the boundaries were defined.

 

Reasons

 

Breckland Council had a clear corporate commitment to helping its market towns to thrive in order that they in turn provide the required support to surrounding villages and hinterlands.  It was recognised 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 found it hard to sustain a presence on the High Street.  High rents, competition and business rates added to the problem of void premises, a preponderance of charity shops in some town centres and low quality retail offers in others. Breckland Council had an important role in facilitating the renaissance of its town centres. 

 

Options

 

1.    Members consider the introduction of a discretionary business rate relief scheme for new retail businesses filling empty properties within the five market towns of Breckland.  The scheme would commence in early 2018 with applications accepted over a 12 month period.  The scheme would offer up to 80% business rate relief for a 12 month period and would be targeted at businesses that met all eligible criteria.  The scheme as a whole would be reviewed annually.  Financial details of the scheme had been attached to the report.

 

2.    Do nothing – continue to offer the current scheme of small business relief and the Government Empty Premises relief.

 

Recommend to Council that the discretionary retail rate relief scheme within the five market towns of Breckland, as detailed in the report, be adopted.

Supporting documents: