At the beginning of last week Caroline Ansell who is the MP for Eastbourne asked questions about empty buildings in town centres. The response came from Dehenna Davison who is the Conservative MP for Bishop Auckland and also a Government Minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Now of course Caroline is also a Conservative MP but the question was something that will impact many towns in the UK. Here are the questions and the responses that the two of them took part in. It is clearly interesting for many of us including outside of Eastbourne! The questions can be obtained from here online. We could take this text and ask our local MPs to take part in the discussion subsequently.
Caroline: What steps he is taking to encourage developers to redevelop empty buildings in town centres.
Dehenna: Regenerating our town centres is essential to the Government’s commitment to level up the country. The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill includes measures to tackle vacant properties, such as high street rental auctions, and it clarifies compulsory purchase powers. We have also revised the business development and use class rules so that commercial buildings can change easily between uses. Through the town deals programme and future high streets fund, the Government are also investing £3.6 billion to regenerate town centres, which of course includes projects to redevelop empty shops.
Caroline: With zero VAT on new build, demolition and greenfield development would seem to be the smart choice for developers, while empty buildings such as the former Debenhams in Eastbourne town centre, which would carry 20% VAT for renovation, are overlooked and year on year move towards dilapidation. Has any assessment been made of the number of new homes that could be delivered should different VAT regimes be levelled up?
Dehenna: I thank my hon. Friend for her question; she is a fantastic champion for levelling up in her community. Questions on VAT would be a matter for His Majesty’s Treasury, but we are of course committed to reviewing incentives around brownfield development and will announce further details on the scope of that review in due course.