SHOCK cost of units

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EMPTY business units have cost Forest Heath District Council £113,000 in the last year.

The overspend was a result of income shortfalls caused by empty business units, vacant town centre units and empty units at Palace Cottage, coupled with the effects of additional business rates and repair and maintenance costs.

The impact of the recession on the district was also seen in the failure of the Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP) to meet targets for the collection of the district’s business rates.

The ARP’s performance, rated as significantly underachieving, was attributed to a number of businesses entering administration and units being empty at the time of collection.

The ARP’s performance report to councillors also shows that some small businesses are failing to take advantage of the relief available to them.

Sharon Jones, head of shared services at ARP, said: “We plan to increase rate collection and make sure we are collecting the right amount of money by promoting the take up of small business rate relief.

“We are ringing up businesses who have not paid to encourage them to pay before more problems arise and they are sent reminders.”

Forest Heath District Council cabinet has approved a new strategic plan that will see the economy put at the top of agenda.

The plan proposes measures including promoting the creation of an innovation hub in the district, making sites available to businesses and promoting faster broadband for the district.

David Bowman, Forest Heath District Council’s portfolio holder for economic development and tourism, said: “Creating the most favourable economic environment we can will be vital to supporting existing businesses and encouraging new ones into the area, which is why we have put this at the heart of the council’s new strategic plan.

“One way we intend to do this is to look at our own assets, to see how they can be used in an entrepreneurial way to support business development.”