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Council approves pilot scheme to reduce vacant town centre properties

Plans to reduce vacant town centre properties and boost economic growth within the district have now been given the go ahead by Cherwell District Council.

On Monday, 6 March Cherwell's executive approved a report outlining proposals to award business rates incentives to bring empty properties in the centres of Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington back into use.

The report proposes a two-year pilot scheme to support these town and village centres and their existing businesses by offering a Business Rates Incentives Scheme, focussed on ensuring properties which become vacant are brought back into use as soon as possible.

Cllr Ken Atack, lead member for financial management, said: "Cherwell is fully committed to sustaining the economic growth of the district. The aim of the scheme is to help reduce empty properties, to increase the diversity of the town centres and offer an incentive for new or expanding businesses looking to locate in Banbury, Bicester and Kidlington."

Business Rates, also known as National Non-Domestic Rates (NNDR), are a form of tax payable by owners and occupiers of commercial properties in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 1988.

Until April 2013, Business Rates were collected by Cherwell and passed to central government who redistributed them nationally. With the localisation of business rates from April 2013, councils were given more flexibility including the ability to reduce the business rates of any local ratepayer under a local discount or incentive scheme.

The pilot scheme will provide an incentive of 50 per cent business rates relief for up to two years to new businesses occupying vacant premises within designated areas.

The scheme will come into effect from 1 April 2017 and to be eligible for the incentive the property must have been vacant for at least six months.

The scheme will be open to all businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 to £50,000, except those which are specifically excluded in the eligibility criteria.

For further information, please contact Geni Hotchkiss, Business Support Unit Manager, on 01327 322170 or geni.hotchkiss@cherwellandsouthnorthants.gov.uk

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