The British property industry has called on Government to cut red tape and put weight behind planning policy which claims town centres are prioritised.

The British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) claims the implementation of the Town Centres First priority brought in 1996 and built on in the recent slimmed down National Planning Policy Framework is “inconsistent at best”.

In an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, BCSC called on Government to consider a private sector led Tax Increment Financing (TIF) programme to bridge the “growing development viability gap”.

The body 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.”

Writing on behalf of its 2,500 members, the trade body claimed retail development is at its “lowest ebb” in 30 years.

BCSC’s letter to Cameron comes on the same day that it is hosting self-styled Queen of Shops Mary Portas as keynote speaker at its annual conference in Liverpool.

BCSC president Peter 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.

“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.”