THE Government has thrown a welcome lifeline to the owners of empty rural letting property as part of plans to boost the economy as the recession bites – but it is only temporary.
Country landlords who have been converting redundant farm buildings to office and workshop space as part of the drive to attract more small business to the countryside were shocked two weeks ago to be told that such empty properties would be due to pay full business rates (See A week in the country, November 21).
But Chancellor Alistair Darling has now announced plans to make properties with rateable value of £15,000 or less temporarily exempt from empty property tax for the 2009-10 financial year.
The news pleased the 36,000 members of the Country Land and Business Association – but they hope that the exemption could become permanent because rural property is difficult to rent as many companies still feel they must locate in towns and cities, despite the cost, pollution and stress of commuting for their staff.
CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: “This is what the CLA has been calling for. However, we would urge the Government to make it permanent to provide reassurance and stability on a long-term basis for investors in rural business properties for let, especially those with extended borrowings.
“As the Chancellor noted, small and medium businesses are the backbone of the UK’s economy and, in this difficult financial time, they are in need all the help they can get.”