Ipswich: High rents blamed for town’s plague of empty shops

LOWERING business rates could encourage businesses to open in Ipswich town centre and reduce the number of empty shops.

This is the claim from readers who were shocked to see the volume of empty units in town after we published a gallery showing more than 20 redundant buildings that were once home to bustling cafes, busy hairdressers and a popular cinema.

Dave Jenner commented on our Facebook wall saying: “I think Ipswich Town Council should lower their business rates to encourage trade, speculate to accumulate. Perhaps there would be less empty premises.”

Commenting on the story online, Cat said: “I always wonder when I see an empty shop ‘What business would I open if I could?’ I think the council and the government should encourage new business owners by helping with finance, rent on unit free for a few months etc to encourage new businesses to pop up. For the record, I would open a pick and mix shop, like a Woolworths type!”

But an IBC spokesman said: “We stress again that is central government that sets business rates. The borough council simply collects them and passes the cash on to the Government. The empty properties in the town centre are owned by private landlords and it is they that set the rents, not the council.”

On Facebook, Richard Morgan said: “Most of these building are worth more empty to the owners as a business asset acting as security against loans and bumping up a company’s worth as the building are valued at a much higher rate than they would actually sell for on the open market, and l’m willing to bet that our ever generous Government allows a cracking tax write off.”

In response to this, Grainne Sanchia Watts said: “If that’s the case then why don’t they let them out to company’s free of charge while they are starting up.”

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Others feel that as temperatures drop, we should allow the homeless to make use of these vacant shops, offices and other buildings.

Rosina Moore said: “Turn them into a place for the homeless.”

While Tracey Bragg said: “Make it somewhere the homeless can go, too many people living on the streets, its not right!”

But Brian Eaves responded: “As nice a gesture as it is to give them to the homeless, it wouldn’t be looked after.”

Sticking with the charitable note, Clare Wilson said: “Let charities use them.”

Teresa Bonner believes turning them into ‘posh’ apartments could help revamp the town centre.

But Kate Langgaard would prefer to see them converted into more affordable homes: “Come April the housing crisis is going to be 10 times worse than ever! We could do with more properties that are affordable to everyone.”

Another option, according to Kieran Lee would be opening more bars.

“Old school garage bars, Ipswich needs a bit more DJ luck and MC neat,” he said.