Empty business properties in Helensburgh could be brought back into use in an attempt to boost the economy.

It has been announced that councillors in Argyll and Bute approved plans for empty sites. 

Previously, empty industrial properties could get 100 per cent relief from non-domestic rates for the first six months they lay vacant and a 10 per cent discount after that.

Businesses could get 100 per cent relief for the whole time a property was unoccupied if they met a range of criteria.

However, by implementing new powers on the levels of relief available to empty business premises, councillors have agreed a number of changes to the scheme, including the following provisions:

  • 50 per cent relief for three months followed by 10 per cent thereafter, except for Empty Property Relief (EPR) for insolvency. No relief will be granted after a property has been empty for over 12 months.

  • Creation of a new post of empty property officer for a period of two years, providing a single point of contact for the council with property owners and helping to coordinate activity across the region.

  • The remaining Property Relief funding will go towards a business grant scheme which will incentivise owners to carry out building works, internal decoration and improvements to fixtures and fittings, helping to bring properties back into use

In 2019, the Scottish Government committed to devolving EPR to councils in time for the next revaluation. However, both the revaluation and the devolution of EPR were delayed because of the pandemic.

A consultation carried out earlier this year with a range of stakeholders, including members of the public, property owners, community organisations and elected members, delivered valuable feedback on a range of issues.

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Council leader Robin Currie, said: “This new policy is designed to maximise the use of these funds to revitalise properties across our communities.

"By bringing empty buildings back into use, there is real potential to create increased footfall in our town centres, create job opportunities, identify possible affordable housing and enhance the look and feel of community environments.

“The consultation provided valuable insights into both the challenges and opportunities around vacant properties in Argyll and Bute.

"The creation of a dedicated post of empty property officer was a key element of the feedback received and will be a major benefit in improving communications with property owners.

“The overwhelming desire from stakeholders was for properties to be brought back into use to help revitalise our town centres and benefit communities across the region.”