THE owner of Morris's Restaurant in Largs has spoken of his shock at being handed a £5,900 rates bill for his empty property - after initially being told he owed nothing due to the coronavirus relaxation on rates for businesses.

Kadir Turban purchased the property last year at a cost of £160,000 at auction and initially hoped to convert the premises into luxury short-stay apartments or run it as an eatery.

He says he has been left stunned after the letter dropped through his door from North Ayrshire Council saying he owed the cash - accrued because he was unable to trade due to lockdown.

Kadir said: "The first bill I got through said I owed zero, but then one appeared saying it was now almost £6,000.

"I couldn't believe it - I thought they had made a mistake so I just ignored it, then a few weeks later I received a final notice.

"You cannot go and see them face to face at the moment but i have contacted some of the local councillors as I think it is a ridiculous situation.

"I took it to Citizen Advice and was told I would need to appeal the decision."

Largs councillor Tom Marshall says Mr Turban has fallen foul of a loophole in the law.

He says: "It is a very unfortunate situation and I know of at least one other business in Largs in the same situation.

"Essentially if a business was trading it got exemption from commercial rates for the current financial year - but if the business was not trading and sitting empty it faces a rates bill.

"The gentleman is sitting in a vacant premises and it is very unfortunate he is caught between a rock and a hard place with this.

"If he had had a sitting tenant in the property he would have been exempt, but he had closed the business and there was no sitting tenant.

"It is an unfortunate loophole.

"I'd imagine the first rates demand of nil was because the council hadn't realised he was not trading in the first instance. There will be other premises caught out by this."

Cllr Marshall alerted the rates team at North Ayrshire Council and they explained the situation.

The response stated: "I can confirm the details of Mr Turban's rates charge for the property at 86 Gallowgate Street as follows: "We were advised in August 2020 of the property purchase on July 2 and a new account was created.

"Unfortunately, the retail, hospitality and leisure relief was not cancelled from the account at this time and the initial notice detailing a zero balance was issued in error on August 13 2020.

"As the property is empty RHL Relief is not applicable and an amended notice was issued for £5,904.59 on August 20.

"This amended notice includes 10 per cent Empty Property Relief as the property in unoccupied

"The property had been unoccupied for a period prior to purchase, so Mr Turban is not entitled to any exempt period since this had expired.

"The empty property relief was explained to Mr Turban and he confirmed work was required in the property.

"He was advised that if a building warrant was obtained the empty property relief could be increased to 100 per cent from the date of issue.

"Otherwise the 10 per cent relief is the maximum which can be awarded, and the charge would remain payable.

"At this point the rates team agreed to hold the account for a period of two months to allow his architect to lodge applications for planning and building warrants.

"At the end of December, no applications had been lodged and the suspension was removed, resulting in a summary warrant being applied for and additional costs imposed."

Mr Turban added: "I will fight this, it is completely unfair."