Business Incentive Scheme
Laois County Council have introduced a Business Incentive Scheme to encourage the use of vacant commercial premises within designated areas of Portlaoise, Mountmellick, Abbeyleix, Rathdowney (Rathdowney Outlet included) & Portarlington over a three year period. This incentive scheme will assist new commercial businesses to set up in the traditional retailing commercial and social heart of each town.
With limited resources it is challenging for County Councils to implement initiatives to encourage new businesses to establish in commercial areas in economic decline. However, having considered the commercial reality of business in the above towns, Laois County Council is pleased to announce a Business Incentive Scheme to encourage the use of vacant commercial premises in the designated areas.
The intent of the scheme is to provide a grant incentive for new businesses to locate in premises that have been vacant for a period exceeding six months and to encourage diversity of retail opportunities within a designated area.
This grant can provide the financial assistance that makes it attractive for new business to consider setting up in areas where there are a number of vacant shop units. These premises are at present not yielding any rates income for the Council.
Objectives of the Scheme
- Promote the development and enhancement of retail floor space in the town centres.
- Enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre and commercial well being of the towns.
- Support the continued role of the town centres and its primacy in the retail hierarchy.
- Encourage new businesses to occupy commercial premises/shops that have been vacant over a period of time.
- Encourage diversity of retail opportunities within the town centre/retail core area of Portlaoise.
- Provide limited financial assistance to make it more attractive for new businesses to establish in areas where there are vacant shops.
- Provide rates income to Laois County Council that otherwise would not be available.
- Job creation and employment.
Eligibility Criteria for the Business Incentive Scheme
- The shop unit must be rated or rateable.
- Premises vacant for more than six months would be eligible for a grant of 75% of rates in Year 1, 50% in Year 2 & 25% in Year 3.
- Three years would be the maximum allowed for the grant regardless of the period the premises has been vacant.
- In Year 4 the full amount of the rates due must be paid in the financial year.
- The property must be owned by the applicant or subject to a minimum 12 month lease. Evidence of rent/lease agreement to be provided.
- The scheme shall not apply to any business or person who owes money to Laois County Council at another location.
- The scheme shall apply to the use of authorised premises only (where is unauthorised development or ongoing enforcement under planning legislation this should be regularised in advance of any application).
The building must be situated as marked on relevant map.
History of being vacant
The building must be an existing building that has been vacant continuously for a period of more than six months. The Council may ask for evidence that a building has been vacant for the specified period. A building may be deemed to be vacant if the building has not been used for any retail, commercial or other business activity.
The grant awarded to successful applicants shall only apply to the following types of premises associated with establishing a new business:
- Use as a shop as defined under Class 1 of the Planning & Development Regulations 2001 (and any subsequent amendments).
- Office use as per Class 2 and 3 of the aforementioned regulations.
- Use for medical or health professional clinics.
- Use as a crèche, day nursery or day centre.
Uses not covered by the Scheme
- Amusement arcades or premises with gaming machines
- Head Shops
- Betting Offices
- Nightclubs/Public Houses
- Unwanted Jewellery (Cash for Gold) or clothes (Cash for Clothes)
- Premises where unauthorised development has taken place or which are subject to enforcement proceedings.
- Business relocating to a similar sized premises within Portlaoise will not qualify for grant relief under the scheme.
Payment of Grant Aid
- A tax clearance certificate will be required as part of the application.
- All approved applicants must sign up to the payment of rates by Standing Order and amount payable must be paid in full in the financial year applicable. Failure to adhere to this will result in the grant being withdrawn.
It should be noted that this grant does not apply to fees associated with other approvals which may be required to be obtained from the Council i.e. planning fees, licences under Section 254 of the Planning & Development Act 2000, as amended, commercial water/waste water and development contributions.
A number of initiatives will assist with this strategy:
- Public Area Enhancement Scheme
- Pilot Painting Scheme
- Pilot Pop Up Shop Scheme
- New Shop Front Scheme
- Creative use of shop-windows to vacant ground floor retail or commercial units as exhibition or display space
- Floral Displays
- Erection of signage
- Christmas Lighting
The Council wish to acknowledge the work of former Town Council’s, Municipal Districts & relevant committees in each town and the various departments in Laois County Council that have assisted the process.