Empty properties cost Colchester £600,000 – and rising

Colchester Council has forked out over £600,000 in business rates on its portfolio of empty commercial properties – and the figure is rising fast. 

These figures have been supplied by the Council, in response to a Freedom of Information request I made recently via Whatdotheyknow.com.

The staggering levels of waste come at a time when the Council is trying to cut costs by slashing valued public services, such as closing Abbot’s Activity Centre to save £74,000 per year.

The lion’s share of the expenditure has been frittered on various commercial premises within the old Keddie’s building on Queen Street. A recent Gazette investigation uncovered this black hole in the Council’s finances, inspiring me to find out how much more money is being wasted on business rates.

If you like your blood pressure on the high side, the results make interesting reading.

Here are some headline figures and stats.

  • £602,809.99 – the amount spent to date on currently vacant commercial properties
  • £128.760.83 – the business rates these properties will attract in 2013
  • £233,850 – the most spent on business rates for a single property (21 Queen Street)
  • 3807 days (over 10 years) – the longest vacant properties (CBC Warehouse 3, Haven Road & Public toilets adjacent the car park on St John’s Street)
  • 93 days (3 months) – the property vacant for the smallest period (5 St Nicholas Street – the former Jack’s hardware store)

The FOI request has revealed that Colchester Borough Council has been quietly paying business rates on some surprising properties. They include.

PUBLIC TOILETS – £26,397.57

The Council is literally pissing money up the wall when it comes to three public toilet sites. In total they have been empty for 9,229 days and cost us £26,397.57 – with a current annual charge of £5322.30.

  • Prettygate Road. Empty 1250 days. £1,248.15 charge for 2013. £3,609.30 since empty.
  • Hawthorne Avenue. Empty 4172 days. £1,436.55 charge for 2013. £8,000.97 since empty.
  • St John’s Street (by car park). Empty 3807 days. £2,637.60charge for 2013. £14,787.30 since empty.

CBC WAREHOUSES AND TRANSIT SHED – £95,890.50

The Council has wasted a fortune on empty warehouses and a transit shed. In total they have been empty for 13,646 days and cost us £95,890.50 – with a current annual charge of £20,535.60.

  • Transit Shed, Haven Road. Empty 2378 days. £2,778.90 charge for 2013. £11,685.60 since empty.
  • CBC Warehouse No 1, Haven Quay. Empty 2542 days. £4,097.70 charge for 2013. £17,162.20 since empty.
  • CBC Warehouse No 2, Haven Quay. Empty 2377 days. £3,673.80 charge for 2013. £15,243.60 since empty.
  • CBC Warehouse No 3, Haven Quay. Empty 3807 days. £7,300.50 charge for 2013. £40,524.50 since empty.
  • CBC Warehouse No 4, Haven Quay. Empty 2542 days. £2,684.70 charge for 2013. £11,274.60 since empty.

OTHER COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES

At this point, I’m losing the will to live – so I’m going to publish the whole shameful list.

But it beggars belief that the Lib Dem led Council is busy trying to shut services for the elderly while it fritters away nearly £130k per year on needless business rates.

Is buying the First bus depot really such a good idea if a) it attracts more business rates and b) the councillors have no real plan about what to do with it?

I think the Council should spend a fraction of this money on a professional who could get these empty sites filled – or recommend that they get knocked down where there’s no realistic chance of selling or letting them.

Don’t you?

Addr 1 Addr 2 Addr 3 Addr 4 Postcode No. of days unoccupied 2013 Charge Total charge since property became empty
COLCHESTER CASTLE HIGH STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1DA 154 days £0.00 £0.00
ST HELENS CHAPEL MAIDENBURGH STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1TT 1615 days £0.00 £0.00
TYMPERLEYS 8 TRINITY STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1JN 528 days £0.00 £0.00
PUBLIC TOILETS RECREATION GROUND WIMPOLE ROAD COLCHESTER CO1 2BX 519 days £0.00 £0.00
PUBLIC TOILETS PRETTYGATE ROAD COLCHESTER CO3 4EQ 1250 days £1,248.15 £3,609.30
8 TRINITY STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1JN 1250 days £0.00 £0.00
PAY & DISPLAY CAR-PARK JARMIN ROAD COLCHESTER CO1 1XW 161 days £0.00 £0.00
TRANSIT SHED, HAVEN QUAY HAVEN ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8HT 2378 days £2,778.90 £11,685.60
C B C WAREHOUSE NO 2 HAVEN QUAY HAVEN ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8HT 2377 days £3,673.80 £15,243.60
CUSTOMS HOUSE FIRST FLOOR 6 & 7 THE HYTHE COLCHESTER CO2 8JB 3107 days £0.00 £0.00
PUBLIC TOILETS HAWTHORN AVENUE COLCHESTER CO4 3QE 4172 days £1,436.55 £8,000.97
21 QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PQ 3776 days £28,260.00 £233,850.96
C B C WAREHOUSE NO 3 HAVEN QUAY HAVEN ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8HT 3807 days £7,300.50 £40,524.50
GND FLOOR,CUSTOMS HOUSE 6 & 7 HYTHE QUAY COLCHESTER CO2 8JB 221 days £0.00 £0.00
PUBLIC TOILETS ADJ CAR PARK ST JOHNS STREET COLCHESTER CO2 7AN 3807 days £2,637.60 £14,787.30
GRD FLR FRONT THE OLD HARBOURMASTERS OFFICE HYTHE QUAY COLCHESTER CO2 8JB 1615 days £0.00 £0.00
4TH FL ST JAMES HOUSE QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PG 3776 days £11,657.25 £95,999.73
C B C WAREHOUSE NO 1 HAVEN QUAY HAVEN ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8HT 2542 days £4,097.70 £17,162.40
C B C WAREHOUSE NO 4 HAVEN QUAY HAVEN ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8HT 2542 days £2,684.70 £11,274.60
3RD FL ST JAMES HOUSE QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PG 2593 days £11,186.25 £74,882.18
ROMAN HOUSE 19-23 QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PQ 630 days £13,776.75 £29,600.99
2ND FL ST JAMES HOUSE QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PG 519 days £11,186.25 £19,351.83
ADVERTISING RIGHTS @ COLNE BANK ROUNDABOUT COLNE BANK AVENUE COLCHESTER CO1 1SJ 1827 days £0.00 £0.00
ADVERTISING RIGHT @ HAWKINS ROAD ROUNDABOUT HAWKINS ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 8JX 1827 days £0.00 £0.00
ADVERTISING RIGHT @ ST BOTOLPHS CIRCUS ROUNDABOUT ST BOTOLPHS CIRCUS COLCHESTER CO2 7EF 1827 days £0.00 £0.00
ADVERTISING RIGHTS @ MIDDLEBOROUGH ROUNDABOUT, WESTWAY MIDDLEBOROUGH COLCHESTER CO1 1QX 1797 days £0.00 £0.00
ADVERTISING RIGHT @ TOLLGATE ROUNDABOUT, LONDON ROAD STANWAY COLCHESTER CO3 8RS 1827 days £0.00 £0.00
26 ST BOTOLPHS STREET COLCHESTER CO2 7EA 240 days £13,276.39 £13,276.39
121 FOREST ROAD COLCHESTER CO4 3XG 1525 days £0.00 £0.00
MAGISTRATES COURT @ COLCHESTER TOWN HALL HIGH STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1PJ 521 days £0.00 £0.00
2 PORTLAND ROAD COLCHESTER CO2 7EH 154 days £4,242.87 £4,242.87
37 QUEEN STREET (GD 1ST 2ND FLRS) QUEEN STREET COLCHESTER CO1 2PQ 185 days £0.00 £0.00
5 ST NICHOLAS STREET COLCHESTER CO1 1LB 93 days £9,316.77 £9,316.77
£128,760.43 £602,809.99

5 Comments Empty properties cost Colchester £600,000 – and rising

  1. Trevor

    You may or may not have a valid criticism here. It all depends on what effort is being made to dispose of these empty properties or what other plans they have for them. I imagine it is quite hard to sell empty commercial property at the moment, particularly things like disused public toilets. Have you got any information on this?

    Reply
  2. Ben Locker

    At least Forest Road doesn’t attract business rate charges. But would be interesting to find out why CBC owns it, and what it has been used for – and why it has been empty for over 4 years.

    Reply
  3. Ben Locker

    Hi Trevor,

    I only got the info yesterday, but I do know that some of those properties have been vacant for 10 years or more. Surely that’s enough time to come up with a plan to lease or dispose of them?

    The Keddies building saga has been going on a long time. We’ve wasted a lot of money from dithering – and I worry that taking on the First bus depot as well, with no real plan on how the site might be developed, could see us throw good money after bad. Though I do accept making the site larger in this way *should* make it more attractive to a developer. Fingers crossed.

    Reply
  4. Steven Dale

    Ben

    I am shocked and disgusted! Thanks for sharing this. Lets get organising. We need to raise this at a council meeting, in local press and on Essex Radio and TV. I will help all I can. Lets do something about ending this scandal and bringing our so-called representatives to book on this ridiculous waste of our money! I have some ideas we can suggest to CBC for better use of the money.

    Reply

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