A WELSH scheme to give tax relief for new occupiers of shops that have been shut for more than a year is set to be implemented in Newport next week.

The Welsh Government has introduced two new schemes to encourage firms to develop and occupy business premises.

Under the scheme new occupiers of retail premises that have been shut for a year will be entitled to 50 per cent off their rates for a period of 12 months.

The premises need to have a rateable value of less than £45,000, and the scheme will apply to shops occupied between October 2013 and March 2015.

New commercial developments built between last October and the end of March 2015 will also be entitled to an extension of the period when they do not have to pay business rates for up to 18 months.

Currently commercial properties receive a rate-free period of three months.

As well as encouraging new premises to be developed, it is hoped the move will help deal with the numbers of empty retail premises in towns and city centres.

Each council needs to implement the measures itself, with Newport council set to put them in place at a meeting of full council on Tuesday evening.

Business rates are collected by Newport City Council on behalf of the Welsh Government, which sets them.

Newport city centre has been badly hit by store closures over the last few years – with major stores like Marks and Spencer moving to Spytty retail park. More recently record store HMV closed its branch in Commercial Street, although the Cwmbran store remains open.

Earlier this month the Argus reported that firms in Newport city centre could be in line for relief on their business rates amid concerns about the impact of redevelopment works.

The Valuation Office Agency had agreed to assess the impact of the works and consider if any adjustments are required, according to a letter from Economy Minister Edwina Hart to Newport East AM John Griffiths.

The authority also has to approve its council tax benefit scheme in Newport, now known as a council tax reduction scheme, at the meeting on Tuesday.

The move is largely a formality as the scheme is obligatory, although local authorities can make changes on specific aspects if they wish.

In Newport the authority officers have recommended that war disablement pensions or war widows’ pension should be disregarded when calculating income.

A total of £5.2 million has been made available by the Welsh Government to authorities to help with the costs of introducing the new scheme. Council tax benefit was controversially devolved to Wales by the UK government back in 2012.