Long-awaited reforms to empty rates on speculative new build developments come into effect today.

The 18-month relief for new development completed before 30 September 2016 will alleviate costs for landlords who paid £1.1bn in empty rates last year.

The policy was first announced by chancellor George Osborne in his autumn statement last December.

But the plans have received a lukewarm reception from the property industry which has warned that the relief will do little to boost development.

Liz Peace, chief executive of the BPF, said: “We have long argued that to make a genuine difference this relief should also apply to major refurbishment or renovation - economically useful activity that necessarily requires void property and which should be encouraged, not penalised, by the tax system.”

The BPF said the decision to limit empty rates relief means the government will continue to take hundreds of millions of pounds a year from businesses through tax on empty shops, offices and factories.

Official figures show there are almost 250,000 empty properties in England alone.