The British Property Federation has reacted angrily to Chancellor Alistair Darling’s announcement that he will scrap empty rates only for properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000.

The BPF, which represents the country’s larger property owners, said it would do nothing to avert demolitions or to help much needed investment and regeneration.

The change means that properties worth less than £250,000 will be exempt from paying rates from April next year, for one year only.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF, said: ‘The chancellor said that this would help 70 per cent of properties, but buried in the small print is the revelation that this will only give back around £185m of the predicted £1bn hit to business. But this is not retrospective and it is not immediate. The smallest firms will somehow have to struggle on until next April.

‘While there are 1.7 million properties liable to pay rates, this could include anything from a single room to a large shop. This change will help only the very smallest property owner. The majority of small firms will continue to be damaged by the government’s ill-thought out taxation.

‘The regeneration of our deprived areas will continue to suffer and buildings will continue to be demolished.

‘Our campaign has been supported by over 125 MPs, as well as large and small firms and a raft of public bodies. We will now step up our campaign to re-instate empty rate relief and urge anyone affected to sign an online petition on the No 10 website.’