A SCHEME offering 50 per cent discount on rates to businesses moving into empty retail premises has been approved in York.

City of York Council’s cabinet gave the go-ahead to the Government’s reoccupation rate relief scheme when it meet on Tuesday. The scheme was outlined in the autumn statement last year, when the chancellor announced a 50 per cent business rates discount to businesses moving into previously empty retail premises between April 1 this year and March 23, 2016.

The relief will be available to businesses over their first 18 month in the premises, provided that the building had previously stood empty for at least 12 months. The council revealed there are 43 premises that would qualify for the scheme. The authority’s head of financial procedures David Walker said: “The Government’s purpose of this new relief is to encourage thriving and diverse town centres and it wants to see the number of vacant shops decrease. In respect of unoccupied properties this relief may act as a real incentive to new business. There are also additional fully funded reliefs that a ‘reoccupying’ business new or existing could benefit from, including retail rate relief and small business rate relief. The raft of business rate reliefs now available provides a real incentive to reoccupy empty former retail premises, create employment and grow the York economy.”

The scheme comes at no cost to the council, with any relief offered fully reimbursed by the Government through the rates retention system. Following approval of the scheme businesses wishing to claim relief will need to make an application to the council.