Retail industry body BCSC has written to the Government to make a firm commitment to measures to kick-start the retail property development pipeline in its pre-budget report next week.
In a letter to HM Treasury, BCSC president Jeremy Collins, has outlined several key recommendations the body believes should be urgently addressed if retail development is to continue to deliver economic and social benefits to communities.
The BCSC is urging the Government to a rapid rollout, where viable, of a UK variation of Tax Increment Financing; a review of the implications of its ineffective policy on empty rates; and support measures which will ensure local authorities work with their development partners in constructive and progressive ways to aid the planning process for the benefit of local communities.
Collins said: “Next week’s pre-budget report is a timely opportunity for the Government to show it is serious about facilitating town centre regeneration.
“We strongly support the introduction of TIF in the UK for several reasons, including its more efficient approach to infrastructure financing than the current public sector approach and its very significant capital raising potential.
“We also ask Government to address its empty rates policy – which simply acts as an additional drain on owners’ and occupiers’ limited cashflow – which could instead be ploughed back into improvements to their properties.
“Once the pipeline recovers there must be an effective working relationship between local authorities and developers to ensure inefficiencies in the planning system do not stifle the progress of economic recovery.”
A BCSC/ Lunson Mitchenall research paper on the development pipeline found credit restrictions have served to limit investment in retail development and look set to result in a lag of around four years before sufficient new schemes start to be delivered.
Marcus Kilby, managing director of Lunson Mitchenall, said: “We know from past lessons that once consumer confidence returns, retailers will react rapidly in order to expand their businesses. This latent demand for more modern, larger units will not be met by current stock, which will inhibit growth. The lending climate is also unlikely to ease in time to provide sufficient investment in new retail developments, so there needs to be additional support via TIFs, empty rates relief and the planning process.”