A few years ago, under the last Government, the law was changed which prevented empty commerial properties becoming exempt from Business Rates. Historically, any commercial building which was unused was exempt from Business Rates but a change in the law ment that they no longer qualified unless the owners could demonstrate that the building could no longer be used.
As times have toughened economically, to avoid paying business rates, land owners started part demolishing buildings. This has had disastrous consequences up and down he land as communities had eyesores inflicted upon them.
Sadly, Southend hasn't been exempt with our seafront and Victoria Avenue suffering in particular. At a recent cabinet, I asked if it were possible for a local change in that we would only give Business Rate exemptions if the land owners totally demolished these types of buildings and cleared the site.
Despite the endeavours of officers investigating we are unable to do so despie local authorities now keeping Bussiness Rates. Here in West Shoebury we have similar issues with the former Turpins Tyres sie in West Road.
Yesterday, residents in West Road were given a pleasant surprise as the land owners started work on demolishing the rest of the building and clearing the site. We are lucky that this work is being undertaken so are less so. If the coalition government really want to help change and transform local communities a very simple change in the law to allow local authorities to set Business Rates criteria will stop this misery being inflicted upon us.