Business rate hits struggling UK High Streets hardest leading to more closures

Finding a new retailer for a prime spot in Blackpool town centre used to be easy.

In the 1980s and 1990s, firms would have been fighting over the keys to 18-22 Victoria Street, a large, modern two-storey unit directly opposite the shopping centre. Not any more.

Until last month, the property had been rented to Topshop and Topman. But their owner, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia group, walked away when the lease came up for renewal. His shops have been struggling to keep up with the competition, and dozens, up and down the country, are being closed.

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“We are having difficulty attracting any interest, never mind a national retailer,” says Paul Moran, a ratings surveyor whose company, Mason Owen, is tasked with finding a new tenant.

Business rates, he says, were a factor in Arcadia’s decision to pull out, and they’re now a big barrier to someone else moving in.

“The first thing tenants look at are their outgoings. And when they see the rates bill, they will be put off by that. Normally you’d expect to be paying 50% of your rent in rates, but the rates bill in this shop is dramatically higher than that.”

With retail in turmoil, pressure is growing for change. So what are business rates and why are they a problem?

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Business rates are a kind of council tax for commercial property. All sorts of premises have to pay them, from offices, warehouses and pubs, to power plants, train stations and shops.

Bills are worked out based on the government’s estimate of how much the property would cost to rent on the open market. Businesses have to pay the tax regardless of whether the space makes any profit or not.

As a rule of thumb, your business rates bill is now typically half of your rent. That’s a big financial burden in itself for retailers with lots of shops. But many of our national chains aren’t even being charged the right amount to begin with. They’re paying millions of pounds more in rates than their rents would imply.

Properties get revalued every few years by the government to make sure the occupiers are paying the correct sums. Some bills go up and some go down. The last revaluation was in 2017.

For towns like Blackpool, this should have been good news because retail rents had collapsed. Their business rates bills should have dived as a result, bringing some relief to a town grappling with too many empty shops and years of government austerity.

But here’s the problem. Changes in bills, both up and down, are phased in gradually over several years to help businesses adjust. It’s like a shock absorber, and it’s called “transitional relief”.

The system is good news if your bills are going up, but not so good if you’re in a property due a big reduction. It’s a bit like being told you’re due a tax cut, but your bill will only be cut incrementally over five years, and you may never get the full reduction.

It works like this because the government wants to make sure it receives the same amount in business rates in real terms, or adjusting for inflation, each year. So rate rises and decreases must balance. This is an England-only policy.

And it’s the largest stores occupied by big chains that are the most affected. Blackpool’s 18-22 Victoria Street is a good example.

Source: BBC News

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Mystery property with no access sold for £1

Previously published on my blog to be sold on auction for a guide price of £100, this mystery town centre property with river frontage and far-reaching views has been snapped for a cool £1 at auction.

Although it might seem like a bargain, the drawback is there is no way to get into the 12sq m first-floor space.

Property in Wisbech

However, the room, wedged between two properties and suspended over an alleyway in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, appealed to one bidder whose hand shot up when the £1 price tag was announced.

The guide price of £100+ was dropped to £1 at the last minute.

The unusual property is in a terrace of old buildings, believed to have been built as granaries or shops in the 16th Century on Nene Quay.

It is bricked up from both sides and even the auctioneer had not been in to see it.

Fenland District Council, which has owned it since 1966, put it up for sale alongside other “surplus properties” with Norwich-based auctioneers William H Brown

There is no record of anyone ever having used the room and the contents and condition remain a mystery.

Property for sale in Wisbech

When it first went on their books, auctions partner Victoria Reek described it as “certainly one of the weirdest ones we’ve had at auction” and admitted it was “probably just full of cobwebs”.

She said the vendor instructed the auctioneer to remove the £100 guide price just before the auction opened.

“So we told bidders the first one to offer £1 could have it – one gentleman put up his hand and it was gone – all done and dusted,” she said.

It is not yet known who bought the inaccessible room.

Source: BBC News

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£50,000 worth of cannabis seize by police from Somerset property after public tip offs

Approximately £50,000 worth of cannabis has been seized from a Highbridge property in UK after public tip offs.

Police raided the Morland Road address and found a “significant number” of cannabis plants, following members of the public reporting their concerns about the property.

Officers on Twitter shared a photo of the cannabis yesterday (February 6).

The cannabis seized by Avon and Somerset Police

They tweeted: “This morning the Burnham and Highbridge Neighbourhood Policing Team executed a successful warrant in the Highbridge area.

“Cannabis seized to the approximate value of £50,000.”

A spokesperson for Avon and Somerset Police said: “At around 8.25am on February 6 officers executed a warrant under S23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act at a property on Morland Road in Highbridge.

“Neighbourhood officers obtained the warrant after receiving information from the community.

“A significant number of cannabis plants were discovered inside the address and have been seized. Enquiries are ongoing.

“We’d like to thank the members of the public who reported their concerns and would encourage anyone else who thinks they may have information about drug supply or production to contact us on 101.”

Source: Somerset Live

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Building planning permission for domestic properties

Building planning permission refers to the approval needed for building or extension (including significant renovation) of a property. Generally, the new building works must be inspected during construction and after completion to ensure compliance with building regulations. Planning permission is also dependent on the environment and area.

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Local councils are responsible for planning permission and if you have any issues that need to be discussed or clarified, the first thing to do is to ask the planning department. Your local library may also have information and literature to help in understanding issues that are specific to your local authority. The government planning portal website is very useful to find out whether your building project needs planning permission or building regulations approval.  There are common projects and interactive guides to use and find out about permitted development limits or to explore in-depth guidance to understand about what you need to consider at each stage of your project.

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Planning permission are required for new building and depending on the environment or area in which you live, you may need planning permission for any of the following:

  • house extensions and additions including conservatories
  • creating a basement
  • sun lounges/conservatories
  • adding a porch to your house
  • swimming pools
  • demolition of buildings
  • enclosing existing balconies or verandas
  • loft conversions
  • dormer windows and roof additions
  • garages
  • garden sheds
  • greenhouses
  • fences, walls and gates
  • patios, hand standing, paths and driveways
  • satellite dishes, television and radio aerials
  • decoration, repair and maintenance.

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Suspended mystery property with no access on sale for £100

A property has gone on the market for just £100, but it is shrouded in mystery as no-one knows how to get inside.

The 12sqm room is up for auction next month and comes with a flying freehold, as it has no structure beneath and is suspended in a passageway between two other buildings.

The room is in a row of historic buildings, some of which date back to the 16th century, but it appears to be sealed from both sides and there is no other access.

Victoria Reek, auction manager for William H Brown’s East Anglian auction centre, selling the room in Nene Quay, Wisbech, said it was one of the most unusual lots she had ever come across.

She told the Cambs Times: “There is no way in or out from the outside, we have been instructed to sell it and we’re starting the price off at £100.

“We think it would make an ideal store room for a market stall holder but it gives you no access rights, it really is just a room which at the moment, you can’t get into.

“We do come across all kinds of interesting lots like this in Norfolk but this is probably one of the most unusual.”

The room is being sold by Fenland District Council along with a number of other pieces of land, it has had in its portfolio for years.

The auction takes place on Thursday, February 20 at Dunston Hall Hotel in Norwich at 11.30am.

Source: Mirror

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Prince Charles says Climate Change is the World’s greatest threat & calls for a green economic solution

The Prince of Wales has told leaders that the world is in the midst of a climate crisis, as he announced plans for his own environmental initiative.

 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he called the effects of climate change the “greatest threats humanity has ever faced” and are “largely of our own creation”

 

The prince hopes his Sustainable Markets Council – which will bring together leaders from the public and private sectors, charitable organisations and investors – can help to identify ways to rapidly decarbonise the global economy.

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Citing his decades of campaigning, he said: “Do we want to go down in history as the people who did nothing to bring the world back from the brink, in trying to restore the balance, when we could have done? I don’t want to.”

He also called for a change in taxes to encourage consumers to make environmentally beneficial decisions.

“It is time to think about how we properly deploy taxes, policies and regulation in a way that catalyses sustainable markets.

“For a transition to take place, being socially and environmentally conscious cannot only be for those who can afford it. If all the true costs are taken into account, being socially and environmentally responsible should be the least expensive option because it leaves the smallest footprint behind.”

 

The prince was criticised by some for flying to the summit on a chartered plane, before making the two-hour car journey from the airport to Davos in a fully electric Jaguar car.

The royal also meet teenage activist Greta Thunberg in Davos

The 71-year-old Prince has been advocating environmental causes since before Thunberg, 17, was born.

 

Speaking to CNN after the meeting, he said: “She’s remarkable. She represents one of the main reasons why I’ve been trying to make all this effort all these years because, as I said, I didn’t want my grandchildren to accuse me of not doing something about this in time and of course there they are.

“All her generation, almost my grandchildren if you know what I mean, are all desperate because not nearly enough has happened – we’ve left it so late.”

Source: iNews

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Landlords & Property Owners: Do I need a new EPC to meet government legislation?

As from the 1st April 2018 there is a requirement for any properties rented out in the private rented sector to normally have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The regulations came into force for new lets and renewals of tenancies with effect from 1st April 2018 and for all existing tenancies on 1st April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property which breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating, unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. This guidance summarizes the regulations. There are separate regulations effective from 1st April 2016 under which a tenant can apply for consent to carry out energy efficiency improvements in privately rented properties.

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For most landlords and home owners this will mean that they will no longer be able to rent out a property with a rating of F or G after April 1st 2018. As such landlords with properties in this EPC bracket should begin preparing now for April 1st. However, there are several nuances and exceptions, which this guide covers in detail.

IMPORTANT NOTE

The ending of state aid for the Green Deal means that changes need to be made to the Regulations imposing minimum energy efficiency standards in the PRS. From April 1st 2019 landlords will now have to pay towards the required energy efficiency improvements to bring it up to standard if there is no third party funding available.

Research has also identified that energy performance certificates (EPCs) understate the thermal efficiency of solid walls. Many PRS properties have solid walls. Usually they were built pre-1918 but can be later. The Government have now recalibrated EPCs to give a truer reading. This could mean that some solid wall properties currently rated F under an EPC will no longer require any work and less work may be required in the case of a G rated property. Landlords of F and G rated solid wall properties are therefore advised to consider having a new EPC check performed. In these cases, obtaining a new EPC may mean that you no longer need to comply with the Regulations or less work may be required.

To find out if you need a new EPC contact me or follow the government website link below for a comprehensive guidance;

Source: Gov.UK

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