Retail kickstart called for

The British Council of Shopping Centres is calling on the Government to make a firm commitment to measures that kick-start the retail property development pipeline in its pre-Budget Report next week…

In a letter to HM Treasury, Jeremy Collins, president of BCSC, sets out the industry's priorities that need to be urgently addressed in the PBR if retail development is to continue to deliver economic and social benefits to local communities.

In the letter the BCSC states there needs to be a rapid rollout, where viable, of a UK variation of Tax Increment Financing, as well as a review of the implications of the government's ineffective policy on empty rates. They also want 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

A research report by BCSC/Lunson Mitchenall released today highlighted the importance of maintaining an active retail development pipeline to ensure continued investment in town centres as well as creating a new source of floor space for retailer expansion.

The analysis points to a latent demand for floor space that will build as consumer confidence begins to return and retail sales improve. The current credit restrictions have already 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.

"Next week's Pre-Budget Report is a timely opportunity for the Government to show it is serious about facilitating Town Centre regeneration," said Jeremy Collins.

"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."

Marcus Kilby, Managing Director of Lunson Mitchenall, comments: "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."