Rate relief scheme could help fill vacant premises

Banbury town centre. NNL-161018-164802009
Banbury town centre. NNL-161018-164802009

The number of vacant shops in Banbury town centre could be cut if a new scheme gets the go-ahead.

Cherwell District Council’s executive will make a decision next Monday over whether it plans to push ahead with a pilot scheme to cut business rates by 50 per cent for two years for new, expanding or relocating businesses occupying vacant areas in a designated area in the town centre.

The designated area will be bordered by the streets north of Castle Quay shopping centre, Cherwell Street, Dashwood Road and roads just to the east of People’s Park.

If approved, it is proposed the scheme will come into effect from April 1.

There are 17 properties in the proposed designated area which are currently vacant.

To be eligible, the property has to have been vacant for at least six months and subject to a lease period of more than 36 months.

The scheme will be available to businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £50,000 but businesses such as charity shops, pawnbrokers, adult shops and betting shops will not be eligible.

The report due to go before councillors next Monday said: “Cherwell District Council is committed to ensuring the town centres for both Banbury and Bicester are supported to retain their economic vitality and diversity.

“Business rates incentives have a role to play as part of the measures taken by Cherwell District Council to support the economy of each town.”

The proposed scheme has been welcomed by Banbury’s Chamber of Commerce.

Chairman Nick Poole said: “The chamber is delighted that Cherwell District Council is making positive efforts to encourage occupancy of vacant business premises and encouraging new tenants to come to Banbury.

“I know the economic development team at Cherwell are working hard to improve the vibrancy of our town centre and any initiative to encourage new businesses to come to Banbury, and to minimise the number of empty properties, has to be a good thing. We hope Cherwell will now be making every effort to promote the scheme as widely as possible.”

Banbury Town Council leader Kieron Mallon praised the scheme as a ‘fantastic incentive’. He said: “I think this is fantastic news that CDC has come up with this scheme. While Banbury has low unemployment, what we are always looking for is the next small business in Banbury to become a regional or even a national business. From little acorns, great oak trees grow and anything that can be done to help start-ups or medium-sized businesses and entrepreneurs has to be fantastic news for Banbury and its surrounding hinterlands.”

A similar scheme has been approved by South Northants Council to help boost Brackley town centre.