A partial holiday for a much reviled tax on empty properties was criticised by business yesterday.

There has been furious campaigning against the imposition of business rates for unoccupied buildings, which began in April this year with the intention of preventing owners from letting properties stand empty as well as generating up to £1bn in taxes.

Opponents in the industry have been joined by unlikely allies from local government and the retail sector, who fear that the tax is stifling regeneration and is adding an unwelcome financial burden on owners just as the sector goes through its worst period for decades.

Prior to April, unoccupied properties had received full relief from business rates for the first three months and 50% after, while industrial properties received full relief. The government scrapped this relief in April, leaving relief for the first three months only.

The government yesterday said that empty properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000 would be exempt from business rates for the financial year 2009-10.

Financial Times, Daily Telegraph