Forecourts in Northern Ireland will now enjoy a 12-month ‘business rates holiday’ to bring them in line with those in England and Wales, following extensive lobbying by the PRA.

News of the extension from three months to 12 was revealed yesterday by the Northern Ireland Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

“We are very pleased that the Northern Ireland government has taken on board our views and extended the business rates holiday across the nation,” said PRA chairman Brian Madderson, who said he had been advised that some forecourts in NI had had to close for financial reasons.

The PRA has actively lobbied the Northern Ireland government since the initial announcement, corresponding with First Minister Arlene Foster and various departments in Stormont.

Ian Paisley MP’s timely intervention with senior figures in the Assembly to support the PRA may have been a decisive factor in this announcement, according to Madderson, who commented: “This is a package of £213 million that will be vital for the survival of many small, rural filling stations across Northern Ireland.

“Around 85% of all filling stations in Northern Ireland are independently owned and operated, and therefore we are delighted that we have been able to successfully represent and assist them in gaining this important concession on business rates.”

In his letter to First Minister Arlene Foster, Madderson said PRA members had voiced their concerns that the “financial aid package available in England, Wales and now Scotland is markedly more advantageous than offered by your government”.

“…It seems that your government has yet to realise the serious financial damage being inflicted on our members, with fuel demand dropping by as much as 85% or normal volume. It is very clear that petrol stations are badly affected and yet all governments need them to remain open for business to serve all the essential frontline workers.”

Madderson requested that she “immediately re-considers the cash grant and rates holiday and adopts similar policies to those now rolled out in the other home countries. Already we have been advised that some forecourts in NI have had to close for financial reasons and this recommended policy change will surely make further closures less likely”.