Empty shops in Norwich to cost YOU £5m in 2020

Norwich is set to lose £5m due to empty shops because of rate relief.  Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich is set to lose £5m due to empty shops because of rate relief. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

This puts the city among the top five in the country set to lose the most income due to empty retail, office, and warehouse sites.

Empty units are given business rates relief for three months to allow for investment into the property and to give the landlord more time to find a new occupant.

As a result, the potential income in rates to local and central government from Norwich will fall from £96.4m to £74.8m - a loss of 5.2%.

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The data collected by the BBC Local News Partnerships has forecast that over the course of 2019/20, 988 units will be subject to relief.

Of Norwich's 6,730 units - that translates to nearly 15%.

The news comes amid calls to reform the business rates model entirely with a special committee telling parliament: "You need reform of the business rates system and you need to look at how you get the online and digital community to pay its fair share."

Stefan Gurney, chief executive of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) agreed, saying "business rate reform should be an immediate concern following Brexit".

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He said: "I think government needs to look at every option - including rates based on sales and turnover. In a world of e-commerce and online sales we need to make sure it's fair for all retailers.

He added that the solution will need to maintain a level of income for authorities.

"Whatever the resolution is, it will need to be on a par with the income they have coming in at the moment," he said.

A shop which announced its closure this week attributed business rates as part of its demise.

Aaron Roberts, owner and founder of gift shop chain Gifted, said: "The store just wasn't turning over what it needed to in order to justify the business rates and the rent."

As a result the shop in London Street will be closing in the third week of January.

Historically Norwich has lost millions due to business rates relief. Data from 2018 to 2019 shows that just over £4m was lost in the economy.

In 2017/18 £3m was lost, and £3.8m was lost in 2016/17.

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