With the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announcing his plan this week to fund £96 million investment in town centres and high streets through the accelerated Towns Fund, Colliers International is calling on the Government to dig deeper into their pockets to help repurpose town centre retail across the UK.
The international property consultancy firm states that there is likely to be a 40-50 per cent oversupply of retail space in some towns nationwide. It has put forward a three-point plan proposal that it believes the Government needs to take on board to help property owners and tenants to reimagine how their retail holdings are run and used, stimulating shopping in bricks and mortar locations nationwide.
Lloyd Entwistle, director in Colliers International’s Retail team commented: “The current Government funding will barely provide enough for a new bus stop for those 101 towns that are selected to receive between £500k-£1million to spend on projects in their areas. The figure needed is more like £96million per town. If the Government has such a vested interest in regeneration and transport, it needs to look at the wider picture and all financial instruments available to local councils.”
The proposals call for:
- Substantial Government and local authority investment, and incentives nationwide, specifically for town centre regeneration.
- A rebasing of the values and business rates of existing stock in line with commercial retail properties rents today.
- A co-ordinated approach and review of all stakeholders by councils to deliver a strategy for each town and allocate sites for regeneration.
Entwistle continues: “The proposed changes in planning are a good move and long overdue. In recent years local authorities have already become much more open to changes of use but speed and resourcing in planning departments has hampered change. On top of this it’s the financial investment and structuring that is needed to kick start regeneration in most towns where otherwise the private sector cannot make it viable.
“COVID-19 has accelerated what was already happening by 10 years. There is a growing oversupply of national retail space, so regeneration and repurposing of retail facilities is drastically required to save the demise of town centres. We’ve gone past the point of no return so we need to tear up the rule book, overhaul the current strategy and start again.
“With the consumer in mind, this means finding the missing pieces in the puzzle to move away from a single purpose town to creating one which encompasses residential, business space, retail, educational facilities, sports facilities, public realm and the right infrastructure to bring people into the town.
“It seems crazy to fulfil the housing shortage in new large housing schemes on the edge of towns or even new towns, which have been suggested when we have redundant space in existing buildings and town centres. There are two problems here and one could help solve the other, all it needs is a bit of lateral thinking and the right investment.
“The traditional retail agent is a dying breed and it’s no longer enough to be just leasing or selling a property. With the surge in localism and a desire for building communities, it’s now crucial for us to have a broader future vision and to be thinking about how to repurpose buildings to re-establish towns as the melting pot of uses where we create a reason for people to go there.”