A MOVE to breathe new life into towns and villages in West Dorset has been backed by councillors.

West Dorset District Council agreed that businesses should get money off their rates if they move into shops that have been empty for more than a year.

It is hoped that the introduction of Business Rates Reoccupation Relief, which was approved by the district council’s executive committee, will attract new businesses and jobs to the area.

Robert Gould, leader of West Dorset District Council, said: “We are keen to do all we can to support West Dorset’s businesses.

“We want our towns and villages to go on thriving and I am very pleased we can help them.

“Nationally 14 per cent of shops are empty.

He added: “In West Dorset we are confident that our high streets are still doing fairly well.

“We are lucky to have so many great independent shops and locally-run businesses.

“I hope this move will encourage even more to start trading.”

Under the government-funded scheme, businesses that qualify will be given a 50 per cent discount on their rates for 18 months.

Business Rates Reoccupation Relief will be available to businesses that move into previously long term empty premises, which were mainly used for retail before they closed down.

In order to qualify, traders will need to have moved in between 1 April 2014 and March 31 2016.

However, it will not be available to all businesses.

Among those not qualifying will be betting shops, pay day loan companies and pawn brokers.

Anyone thinking of starting a business can find further information and help online by going to dorsetforyou.com/starting-a-new-business or dorsetforyou.com/business-rate