COVID business support: who is eligible?

Article supplied by: Robert Watson FRICS, Director, Osborne King Commercial Property Consultants

Never has the value of neighbourhood retailing been more acutely recognized than during the current COVID-19 crisis. Convenience, familiarity and greater anxiety about visiting supermarkets have meant that neighbourhood shops have had a vital role to play in helping us all through the crisis. Credit is due to shop staff and those in the supply chains who have become essential workers.

Whilst many convenience shops have seen a boost in trade, more nuanced appraisal of the sector reveals that city centre shops are closed and those more reliant on trade from transport routes have suffered a significant downturn. Additionally, there will have been increased staff costs and installation of protective measures etc.

The UK and local governments have introduced a range of business support measures, some of which are based on the rates system. As well as a three months rates holiday, two business grant schemes have been introduced. The first is £10,000 for all businesses where the rateable value (NAV) of the business premises is below £15,000 and no application is necessary. The second scheme, targeted at the retail, hospitality, tourism & leisure sectors, is for £25,000 but requires an application by 20 May.

To qualify, the NAV of the premises must be between £15,001 and £51,000 as at 15 March 2020 but, crucially, if the valuation entered that band by virtue of the new rating list introduced from 1 April 2020 the new valuation can be used to qualify.

Applications are subject to scrutiny, though the exact criterion are unknown and payments have been slow to date. Many PFS/convenience shop retailers’ premises will fall into this valuation bracket and on the face of it should qualify.

There is an appeal process if payment is refused. It should be noted that a single business occupying multiple premises is only entitled to one grant but if different shops are operated by distinct businesses each separate business will be entitled to apply for a grant payment. It is also possible to get a £10,000 and £25,000 grant for two qualifying premises.

Further information on the grant scheme and other business support measures can be found at As mentioned, new rates valuations were introduced on 1 April 2020 which will form the basis of rates payable from July.

I recommend ratepayers have those valuations checked and challenged as necessary. Osborne King are very active in the PFS/convenience sector and are here to provide support in respect of grant applications, rates appeals or any property related requirements.

I trust readers will continue to safely serve your communities.

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