BRC demands urgent lease reform

In an uncompromising speech, BRC director-general Bill Moyes kept up the pressure on landlords to do more to promote flexible leases on shops.

He warned that the UK's system of property tenure is damaging to business, especially retailers. 'The UK is the only place where upward-only rent reviews, inflexible leases and a modified form of privity of contract co-exist,' he said. 'Without real action, the UK economy will be harmed by this lack of flexibility.'

Moyes conceded that the BRC had been sceptical about a voluntary approach to lease reform, encapsulated in last year's code of practice on commercial leases. 'So far, our scepticism appears to have been justified,' he said. 'I have yet to see a lease that is fully code-compliant.'

And he warned that the BRC would push for legislation unless landlords softened their line. 'The core problem (with the code) is its voluntary nature,' he said. 'Tenants are in no better position than before. Without enforcement, landlords have no incentive to comply.'

But Moyes' scorn was not confined to property owners. The planning system is also a barrier to retailers' growth, he said.

He said the BRC opposes several of the key planks of the Government's proposed planning reforms, including the abolition of outline planning permission, the reduction in the lifespan of a consent from five to three years and the banning of dual applications, which allow retailers to lodge an appeal on one while still continuing to negotiate with the local council on the other.