My honourable friend the Minister for Local Government (John Healey) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I am today publishing a consultation on detailed aspects of reforms to the current system of relief from business rates for owners of empty properties.
The modernisation of empty property relief is a key element of a broad package of measures which promote the efficient use of land and property, announced in the 2007 Budget. The Rating (Empty Properties) Bill, which received its Third Reading in the House of Lords on 3 July and now awaits Royal Assent, will provide a stronger incentive for owners to bring empty shops, offices, factories and warehouses back into use—helping to revitalise town centres, reduce rents for businesses and bring forward new opportunities for commercial and housing development on brownfield sites.
The consultation paper published today seeks views on detailed aspects of the reforms to empty property relief, to be achieved through secondary legislation. In particular, it invites views on potential changes to a small number of the current exemptions from empty property rates; and on new measures to prevent the avoidance of empty property rates, which the Government propose to bring in under a power provided in Schedule 1 to the Rating (Empty Properties) Bill.
The response to the consultation, which closes on 1 October 2007, will inform the secondary legislation required to give effect to the reforms which, as announced in the 2007 Budget, will be brought into force on 1 April 2008, subject to parliamentary consent.
Copies of the consultation document have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.