New battle over Harrogate's empty shops

The frontage of an empty shop unit at Station Parade in Harrogate.  (1804071AM4)
The frontage of an empty shop unit at Station Parade in Harrogate. (1804071AM4)

As worries continue over Harrogate town centre’s prosperity, the town’s leading business group is considering launching its own investigation into who owns empty retail units.

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After Harrogate Borough Council confirmed this week that no list of landlords currently exists, Harrogate Chamber of Commerce said it was concerned that possible improvements could be hampered.

Harrogate Chamber of Commerce president Steve Scarre said: “We need to do something about empty shops and restaurants but at the moment we simply don’t know who owns the empty units.

“It’s not going to be easy but we are talking about making the effort to compile a list of all the landlords in the town centre.”

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Since the Government completed the first business rates revaluation for seven years in 2017 on 1.9 million business properties nationally, the effect on business rates has been disputed by some struggling shop and businesses.

The Harrogate Chamber of Commerce’s president is hopeful that acquiring a list of landlords will make it easier to look into possible reductions in business rates to ease financial pressure on shops.

He said: “It’s important to look at the ratable value of retail premises to see if the ratable value is actually correct.”

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In some towns and cities in the UK where empty shop units are owned by London-based companies, it has made life harder for local councils looking to bring in new occupants or install “wrappers” to improve the appearance of the empty shops.

Steve Scarre said: “We’ve got to make the frontages look better in these challenging times. We need to do something with the empty properties. Some of them look a mess.”

In an effort to maintain the economic vitality of the Harrogate district, Harrogate Borough Council recently approved the introduction of a new town centre improvement rate relief for smaller business owners looking to soup-up their premises.

A new discretionary fund totalling £50,000 is now available for town centre areas in Harrogate, Knaresborough, Masham, Pateley Bridge, Boroughbridge and Ripon to support the external re-decoration of properties with a rateable value of up to £50,000.