ON his first official engagement as newly appointed Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, has visited the reopened Marine Hotel in Ballycastle, which has benefited from the Empty Premises Relief scheme.
Over the past year the Executive has made a number of changes to the rating system including an expansion of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme and a new Empty Premises Relief to aid local businesses. These reliefs are now in place.
The Empty Premises Relief scheme was introduced in April 2012 to help reduce the number of empty units on our High Streets. The scheme has proved a great success with 146 new businesses up and running in Northern Ireland that are availing of the 50% rates relief. The Scheme will run until 31 March 2015.
During the visit Simon Hamilton said: “I am delighted to be here today to meet with the management and staff of the Marine Hotel and see at first hand a real example of how, through targeting rate relief, the Executive is making a positive impact on the economy and is assisting businesses.
“This refurbished hotel will bring business back into the heart of Ballycastle and will be of great benefit to the local people, creating employment opportunities, maintaining and growing our local tourism industry. This is a great example of how government is helping local business people during the current harsh economic climate and I would take this opportunity to encourage those thinking of starting a business to avail of this generous concession.”
Colum McLornan, Director of Marine Hotel Ballycastle Ltd, said: “The chances of re-opening the Marine Hotel may not have happened without the rates relief we received. The assistance has enabled us not only to invest in the business, but employ 75 people in the height of the tourist season.”
Referring to the Scheme the Minister continued: “This policy is making a real difference and I believe it is important to maintain this relief until March 2015 to help bring empty units back into use.
“Retail business has changed substantially over the last few years with many of us choosing to use the internet for shopping. With these trends likely to continue in the future it has been important for the Executive to continue to support our local businesses.”
Concluding the Minister said: “The Empty Premises Relief is unique in the UK but the Scheme will not be in existence beyond March 2015.”