The Tories are ratcheting up the pressure on the government over empty rates with a meeting in Kent this afternoon for businesses affected by the tax.

Roger Gale, MP for North Thanet, and Conservative candidate Laura Sandys will meet with local businesses and the British Property Federation in Ramsgate at 3pm today.

The move follows shadow secretary for communities and local government Eric Pickles MP’s pledge to review empty rates ‘as a priority’ if the Conservatives win the next election (Property Week, 29.08.08).

Gale said: ‘It’s bad enough to sink the ship, it’s even worse when the government takes away the lifeboats. If these companies are forced to knock down their properties, then all the work that has gone into Thanet’s regeneration will be lost.’

Peter Cosmetatos, director for investment at the British Property Federation, said: ‘Any short-term gain for the Exchequer will be wiped out by regeneration projects being shelved, firms being driven out of business and usable buildings being demolished.’

The BPF is due to meet government officials at the end of this month to discuss rates.

The reforms have meant that empty property owners now have to pay full business rates after three months of vacancy, for shops and offices, and six months of vacancy, for industrial property.

Previously, industrial property owners were exempt and other commercial property owners received 50% relief.