The Government has been hit by another wave of criticism over empty property rates, with big-name retailers ramping up the debate against changes brought in this year.

Next, B&Q and Nokia have come out in opposition to the changes that came into effect on April 1, which put an end to the 50 per cent relief on the rates landlords and retailers are forced to pay on unoccupied property.

The move infuriated landlords and retailers that have since been hit with huge rates bills reaching into the tens of thousands of pounds in many cases.

In September Asda demolished a call centre in New Barnet, Hertfordshire to avoid paying rates on it, which it says would have been in the thousands.

An Asda spokesman said: “Just as things have become more difficult economically, the Government has imposed an ill-timed tax on empty properties, which has had a number of unintended consequences.”

The Government claims that the changes to the law were intended to dissuade landlords and retailers from leaving property empty, but has been branded as a stealth tax to bring in extra cash at the expense of retail owners and occupiers.

The Government stands to net about £2 billion from the charges – a figure that has risen since April as the amount of unoccupied space has increased.