1 in 6 high street properties in NI are now vacant…

As a new report reveals that 1 in 6 retail properties in NI are now vacant the Irish News has an interesting story on the closure of the SuperValu store in Banbridge.

The Supervalu store – which originally opened as Wellworth’s in 1963 – had been owned and run by Frank McPolin (50) and employed nearly 80 full- and part-time staff.

The building also houses a separately-run discount store and also the town’s main Post Office.

Independent retail body NIIRTA blamed the decision to allow Tesco to open a £38 million 65,000 sq ft out-of-town superstore at Bridgewater Park in 2014 – combined with a 30 per cent increase in the store’s rates bill – for the fall of Supervalu.

I don’t have the full facts on the financial position of the store but I do know that most businesses would struggle to cope with a 30% increase in rates. Combine that with a massive competitor with bottomless pockets opening up on your doorstep  and they did not stand a chance.

Never mind corporation tax, immediate action to reform the grossly unfair rates system is the only way to stop our high streets turning into desolate ghost towns of charity shops and money lenders.

In my view business rates should be scrapped. Businesses should only be taxed on their profits, it is the only fair system. Put 2% on the Corporation Tax rate to cover rates and give this to the Assembly and Councils.

Low rates (or no rates) combined with flexible rents would revamp our high streets. It would allow small traders to take a chance on a business without burdening them with a mountain of debt.

People want real shops, not fake shops.

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  • Am Ghobsmacht

    This is a splendid idea.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    With regards to seeing out of town developments as an enemy of town centres perhaps they could be part of the solution?

    As naïve as this sounds what if out of town developments were the sole preserve of ‘the big names’ eg Asda, Tesco, B&Q etc and town centres were designated ’boutique’ zones where Franchises and chain stores were slapped with higher rates and boutique/independent stores were rate free?

    This leaves the town centres for butchers, bakers and candlestick makers and indeed hobby-based businesses (as in businesses that arose out of personal interests such as books, crafts, gardening, DIY (a rural DIY store is a vanishing treasure imho), galleries, baking etc) but without the madness of traffic brought in by people doing their weekly shop.

    Also, this could help businesses reappear in hamlets, surely everyone knows of hamlets and villages that no longer have any businesses to speak of? (Plus it’s really annoying to have to drive 3 miles to get a pint of milk…).

    And for those who avail of the big out of town developments, well, they can still carry on unimpeded.

    This could also address the tourist grumbles of Americanisation and give each town a sense of personality and new vitality.
    Just a thought.

  • whatif1984true

    Thank you and whilst it wouldn’t be a thread on the proposed wiki as an idea one can see that it will practically speaking disappear for ever. There are already 8 new threads in Slugger above this on e. A simple example of how information/promises/facts get washed away.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    You should email belfastrevival@gmail.com

    Myself and some other sluggerites avail of it as a sort of platform to raise awareness for similar issues.


    It’s main raison d’etre was the mass demolition proposed for the area behind the Belfast Telegraph building and since that has temporarily been put on hold the site has been a bit quiet. This could be new direction of sorts.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Please see my response to Old Mortality below, it may be of interest to you.

  • Cosmo

    Mind you, the phenomenon of Donald Trump dramatically show how voters can lose interest in facts! . But, returning to the role of media, in his case he threatened them so they remained unquestioning; in NI’s case there just isn’t the financing to support an investigative media.
    but this idea has legs. could it be run with The Detail ?

  • whatif1984true

    The idea could start as small as possible (main issues) and very gradually expand, this would help it establish and avoid initially being a jack of all trades master of none.
    It obviously requires resource and technology but the Slugger team could best indicate how much would be needed to kickstart it. It would be the reference library and slugger et al the debating chambers.