All commercial properties were re-assessed for Business Rates purpose with effect from 1st April this year.
Whilst there has been coverage in the press and murmurs of discontent from occupiers who have seen increases in their assessments, principally office, retail, warehouse and distribution centre occupiers based in the South-East who have seen significant increases in their assessments, there has been relatively limited coverage in the national press. This is mainly because of Brexit and the debate over the government’s negotiating position.
The issue of Brexit has been occupying a significant proportion of the government’s time and energy, to the extent that other areas are not seeing the attention that they might previously have had. Regulations regarding the new procedure for appealing a rating assessment have only just been finalised. These make quite significant changes, effectively requiring a ratepayer to make their case in advance of negotiations and not even guaranteeing that the assessment will be reduced, even if it can be shown that the assessment is high. To many observers it would appear that the purpose of the new regulations is to discourage all but the most obvious appeals.
It is likely that the government’s preoccupation with Brexit will continue for at least the next two years, taking attention away from other areas. This could affect major initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse and will certainly affect lesser issues.
However, in this changing world business must continue to operate. The Brexit agreement is likely to bring many changes for businesses, particularly those who export into the European market. Whilst times appear uncertain, consumer spending remains strong.
The commercial property sector in this area also remains brisk, particularly in the industrial sector. We are currently seeing demand for modern industrial buildings starting to outstrip supply, putting an upward pressure on prices and rents. This would suggest that North Manchester and East Lancashire businesses remain optimistic about the future in this changing environment.