Absentee landlords issues blamed by councillors for empty shops problem in county

Empty shop units in the Riverside Precinct in Sleaford. EMN-191104-124942001
Empty shop units in the Riverside Precinct in Sleaford. EMN-191104-124942001

The government needs to do more to tackle “absentee” landlords in a bid to fill empty shops, say council leaders.

The issue was raised during a Lincolnshire County Council discussion on revitalising market town high streets.

Councillor Martin Griggs said many of the empty shops in Boston were owned by “large property funds who have no interest in getting on board and fixing shop fronts.”

He called for more to be done to discourage this type of behaviour. 

LCC’s economy executive Colin Davie said he felt empty shops should have to pay business rates themselves after a set period of time. 

Following the meeting he said: “Absentee landlords are a big problem for Lincolnshire. People from different parts of the country who don’t care about the place. It’s a purely financial investment, they don’t have a compulsion to fill those shops.”

He said in districts such as East Lindsey District Council, owners of residential properties had to pay tax after their properties were empty for three months.

However, councils cannot currently implement similar controls over business rates.

Councillors were told that an expert witness from Banks Long & Co, the agents for properties in the mid-reburbishment Lincoln Cornhill Quarter, said they had been successful due to their relationship with the local council and community.

The committee made a series of recommendations to be explored by the authority, including encouraging market towns not to compete with each other in a bid to create individual identities.

However, following a question by councillor Alison Austin on the effect of car boots on markets, it was revealed the report had not looked at markets themselves, but the physical buildings in the area.

Mention was made again of high streets being for leisure and activity rather than purely for shopping in the future.

Pedestrianisation and free wi-fi were also questioned, but councillors were dubious about their value to high streets.

Daniel Jaines , Local Democracy Reporting Service