Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland rates rethink brings mixed views

Revaluation may entice big names back into Belfast city centre

By Clare Weir

The resurgence of parts of Belfast city centre as retail destinations could be on the horizon, thanks to the revaluation of non-domestic rates.

The Department of Finance and Personnel's Land & Property Services (LPS) has revalued all 73,000 non-domestic properties in the province, based on 2013 figures.

Rates will be struck by individual councils in February with the bills being issued next April.

While Belfast's Royal Avenue and Donegall Place have filled with discount stores and fast food outlets since the economic downturn, there are hopes that the recalculation could see major names enticed back.

Some Northern Ireland shops and shopping centres will see a decrease in rateable values of up to 50%, although others, like Rushmere in Craigavon, could see a rates hike.

Businesses in Newry, Mourne and Down are expected to be hit hard by increased rates bill as its total net annual value has grown by 16%.

One Newry businessman said the revaluation was "economically disastrous".

The final bill is made up of the regional rate, the district rate and net annual value (NAV) - the annual rental value that a property could be let for on the open market.

The last valuation took place in 2003 and was based on 2001 figures.

The department said that while the Executive and new councils will not raise any more money because of the revaluation, the amount raised "will be redistributed between non-domestic ratepayers on a fairer basis". Upgrades to energy infrastructure and the advent of out-of-town retail in the last decade will be reflected in associated rates rises.

Large food retailers have seen up to a 40% rise in rateable value and wind farms could see their bills soar by up to five times.

While shops in Royal Avenue and Donegall Place could experience up to a 50% cut in their rateable value, Arthur Street's has been revised up by 80%.

The once-quiet area has seen an explosion of high-end lifestyle retailers because of its close proximity to Victoria Square - though rateable value of floorspace in the latter will fall.

Eamonn Murphy of Murphy Chartered Surveyors said he hopes that the revaluation will help attract investment.

"Hopefully with a rates reduction in some areas, it will not only be an attractor for large nationals but also for local businesses who may relocate into Belfast city centre and into more prominent locations in provincial towns," he said.

However, Patrick McClughan of renewable energy firm Gaelectric has said that the company may have to review investment decisions in the event of a potential rates hike.

The firm today opens a £58m wind farm in Dunbeg, near Limavady and plans to commission another seven projects by 2017.

"Gaelectric is very concerned that the impact of implementing a dramatically increased rateable value on wind farms will mean investment decisions may need to be reviewed," he said.

Belfast Telegraph