ACS chief executive James Lowman

The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) has urged the government to take action to address the rise in vacant properties on high streets and in local communities.

During the Spring Budget 2023, a consultation was launched to look into the scale of avoidance, evasion and poor rating agent behaviour in the business rates system, and potential methods to tackle it.

In its submission ACS has outlined support for the proposed restructuring of Empty Property Relief (EPR) as a measure to incentivise landlords to fill vacant properties on high streets, highlighting the detrimental impact that empty properties have on communities and existing businesses, reducing footfall and the commercial vitality of these areas.

In the submission, ACS has urged the government to expedite the Check, Challenge, Appeals (CCA) process for empty properties to ensure these properties are occupied more swiftly.

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We welcome the measures that the Government has proposed to reduce the number of vacant properties on our high streets but there’s a need for deeper examination to understand the core reasons as to why these properties are vacant in the first place.

“Businesses, including local shops, face soaring operating costs continue to rise at an eye-watering rate and as a result, for many it has become almost impossible for them to continue trading and has deterred businesses from occupying new spaces.”

ACS has also called on the government to identify and clampdown on rogue agents who are exploiting ratepayers and the overall system, taking advantage of the intricacies of the system to deceive businesses.