The UK Government must take action to enable investment in high streets, retail property trade body the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) has told David Cameron today.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, BCSC has challenged the Government to cut red tape and tackle development issues arising due to tough economic conditions, outlining the primary problems stalling the retail industry’s development pipeline.
Peter Drummond, President of BCSC said: “We have written to the Prime Minister following last week’s flurry of announcements on further planning reform to outline a number of wider issues that need addressing.
“Principally, Government must put further pressure on the implementation of a town centres first policy at local authority level. Secondly, a more widespread and effective use of tax increment financing to deliver hundreds of millions of pounds of local infrastructure must be urgently considered.”
In its letter, the group highlighted the importance of considering a private sector-led Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programme, a move the industry has been calling for for some years, the group explained.
“For a few years now, the industry has called on Government to consider a private sector led TIF programme to bridge the growing development viability gap,” the group said.
“This approach to TIF allows projected increases in business rates revenue to be used to secure private sector investment in public infrastructure, bridging the gap between securing funding and starting on site.
“This valuable opportunity cannot be glossed over any longer at the expense of our town centres.”
BCSC also attacked the Town Centres First policy, which was implemented in 1996 and aims to promote the regeneration of town centres and high street shops, stating that “implementation remains inconsistent at best.
“The private sector cannot be expected to deliver substantive town and city centre investment without consistent and transparent application of policy at local level.”
BCSC is currently holding its annual conference in Liverpool and will be welcoming keynote speaker Mary Portas today.
Drummond said: “The Prime Minister’s appointment of Mary Portas was an important step but we strongly believe that Government now needs to take more decisive action to encourage investment in town and city centres.
“High streets and shopping centres fulfil leisure and community needs as well as retailing ones so constant investment and refreshment is vital, but the private sector needs supportive policy to make it viable.”