We're working with Ealing Council in developing an Empty Shop Scheme. We did explore the idea of the Council granting business rates exemption but did not get a positive response. I'd be really interested to hear about any progress you make in this area. The objective in Ealing is similar to your own - to attract and create opportunities for local artist and community groups. I have been carrying out consultation with local property owners and agents and have had success in obtaining agreement that empty shops can be used in return for payment of business rates. I have identified a couple of local arts charities who have been prepared to take on leases and manage the empty shops. They qualify for 80% business rate relief and also have a pool of members/potential end users who want to use the spaces for creative projects.
Jess, please would you be able to send me a copy of the Hastings case study? The success you have had with the Council there in terms of waiving business rates is very impressive and I'd like read more about how it was achieved. Thanks!