The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is teaming up with the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) to create a taskforce to help indebted town centre properties.

The Distressed Retail Property Taskforce (DRPT), launched today, aims to address issues of physical degeneration, falling footfall, reduced investment and associated social decline in towns and cities across the country.

The group will be led by private sector companies comprising experts from real estate lenders, pension funds and trade organisations, including the British Property Federation.

Grant Shapps revealed the formation of the taskforce when he responded to the Portas Review.

The Department for Communities and Local Government, which heads up the drive to revive Britain’s failing high streets, will observe the group.

DRPT chairman and director of Hark Asset Management Mark Williams said: “Empty or dilapidated property is a visible symptom of the struggle town centres are facing. 

“Falling capital values and squeezed income streams have meant that many shopping centres and town centre retail properties now have a value significantly less than the level of debt held against them.

“Given current economic conditions, lenders are unwilling, or unable, to offload these properties and write off the debt, or to loan out more money to improve them. The negative knock-on effect on the wider area is physical degeneration and social decline.”

The DRPT will identify the scale of the problem and specific centres and towns affected. It will then try and tackle the key reasons for property lenders or administrators’ inability to invest or sell on retail property assets. 

BCSC president Peter Drummond said: “By working together to develop a full picture of the issue and its impact on town centres, we will be in a better position to uncover a workable long term solution.”