LETTER : Unfair tax benefits help superstores kill market towns

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IT IS no surprise that out-of-town supermarkets are killing off town centres ("Tories admit: `We killed market towns' ", 19 February). They enjoy obvious tax advantages over town centre shops. Even a corner shop pays more rates per ground area or per turnover than those warehouse monstrosities.

Yet, two simple changes to the Uniform Business Rate would balance things up between the supermarkets, town centre shops and the corner store:

1) Assess rates on the undeveloped rental values of all sites.

2) Make the rates payable whether the site is in use or not.

The first would take into account the vast areas taken up by car parks and return to the community some of the advantage of the more central sites. The second would encourage the immediate use of premises held out for higher rents and book values.

We might add a further change:

3) If the actions on one site causes the reduction of values on another, this difference should be paid by the former.

Without invoking planning law and compensation this would check bad development everywhere, and, if one thinks about it, also lead to a reduction in pollution and waste.

Alex Godden