602 empty businesses a ‘blight’ on high street; 16% of commercial units empty

Over 600 commerical properties in Derry are currently vacant according to startlingnew figures released by the Finance Minister Conor Murphy.

Details of the vacancy rate released by Mr. Murphy in response to a query from West Tyrone Assembly candidate Daniel McCrossan show 602 out of 3,774 non-domestic properties in Foyle are lying empty - giving a vacancy rate of 16 per cent.

The rate of vacant businesses is even higher in West Tyrone (696 our of 4,03 properties; 17.2 per cent) while across the north as a whole 12,634 our of 74,910 non-domestic properties are unoccupied, giving an average vacancy rate of 16.9 per cent.

Last week Mr. Murphy described vacant shops, offices and other businesses as a ‘blight on the appearance of high streets’ in the north.

At present a 100 per cent rates holiday implemented by Mr. Murphy to assist businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdown remains in place.

However, this is due to end at the end of June.

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The legislation which takes effect from May 1 will introduce a tax concession of a 50% empty property relief or vacant rating charge for new occupiers for a period of two years. Mr. Murphy said the aim of the measure is to build a ‘solid platform for new high street occupation in the longer term, following the damage caused by the pandemic’.

“Vacant commercial property is a blight on the appearance of high streets across the North. By reintroducing the scheme, we can ensure that more empty commercial properties start to be brought back into use. That will improve the appearance of towns and create jobs across the community,” he said.