The British Retail Consortium and occupiers association Corenet have hit out at a Government plan to remove rate relief on empty properties and said it would hamper regeneration in deprived areas.

In a joint formal response to the Government’s consultation paper Modernising Empty Property Relief they said occupiers, particularly retailers, would be hit hardest by the legislation which comes into effect next April.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: ‘It seems like the Government has been blinded by the cash benefits and can’t or won’t see the negative consequences of what it is doing. With just three months’ relief developers will be reluctant to take a chance on areas where the returns are not assured.’

‘There is also the danger that retailers and other business operators will be discouraged from expanding into these areas for fear that they will be locked into long-term tenancy agreements for which they will be liable for both rent and rate payments should the business fail,’ he said.

Both associations have called on the Government to use secondary legislation to extend the period of empty property rate relief to at least 18 months. It said expanding the exemption period would encourage developers to attempt to rejuvenate deprived or marginal areas, where long-term and viable tenants can be difficult to find and keep.

CoreNet’s Julian Lyon, said: ‘I cannot conceive of a set of circumstances in which an occupier, paying rent on a lease for space it no longer occupiers – whether as a result of expansion, contraction or simply relocation – will deliberately withhold that space from the market.

‘By adopting our recommendation and increasing empty property relief to 18 months, the Government would send the clearest signal that this is not merely a revenue-raising exercise at the expense of businesses large and small.’