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Chase & Partners 28 Point Business Plan/Manifesto for Revitalising Town Centres

Chase & Partners 28 Point Business Plan/Manifesto for Revitalising Town Centres

1. High streets will have to shrink in many cases.  This is already a fact but it does not mean they should disappear or stop reinventing themselves.  They will be simply different in the future but still recognisable.

2. Rental levels have fallen in real terms more than most appreciate. Until values are properly re based we cannot move forward but will continue to pretend we are simply waiting for a convenient catch up.

3. The occupier in property is key. Without occupation and demand for occupation there is no value in real estate property unless it is potential from future anticipated use and redevelopment.

4. The game is up in respect of bank lending but this will mean that each project proposal can be better assessed for its true potential. Those proposals that are sustainable in the long term will succeed those that aren’t will not.

5. It is unlikely we can rely on growth as a constant factor in the UK economy but returns will still be required. We will have to consider different assessments to reflect the rational for development and investment.

6. The business of town centres is a serious and highly complex subject requiring energy, skill and enterprise, nothing else which falls short will do.

7. The business of town centres is more than just retail and comprises business across the board in all it guises for both private and public sectors. It is a community but it needs to be a changing and dynamic one. Preservation of the past on its own is not the answer but conservation of the right areas to encourage character and belonging is.

8. Independent retailers are a key element for the future of town centres but they have to be capable of playing the same game as the multiples as the consumer does not buy out of charity. Protecting inefficient or poor retailers is inappropriate and will simply increase the effectiveness of internet trading and skew competition.

9. The High Street Initiative Fund of £10m has been distributed at £100k to 100 LA’s with weak criteria identified for the 100 selected parties and no focus on town centres.  The result is that Reading qualified but Rochdale did not as Reading had a greater vacancy rate across its environs as a whole including out of centre offices.  ATCM has created HS100 as a network for best practice on use of the HSIF and feedback reporting structures to measure performances.

10. Government response to Portas Report has resulted in the original 12 Portas Pilots being doubled to 24.  Town teams will be key to bring a focus to the business and management of town centres.

11. Public transport for the future will be key for town centres and ultimately its strength given the ongoing costs of energy and fuel which will drive inflation and rising household costs.

12. A filling of the voids by residential occupancy is a real opportunity provided we do not create the slums of tomorrow.

13. In many parts of the UK affordable/social housing planning requirement is an unnecessary break on development, investment and opportunity which reduces supply not increases it.

14. Taxation policies are likely to be counterproductive but BID’s and TIF’s will be key initiatives.  ATCM think tank has resulted in “Retail Growth Strategy” focusing on demographics and technology.

15. Internet and multichannel (“omni commerce”) trading will increase especially with the development of “smart-phones”.  Taxation policies must be capable of being applied fairly to both internet and physical traders. Overseas tax free internet traders are an unfair competitor to both physical multiples and independents alike.  All physical retailers will have to grasp new technology for future survival.  It will help them as much as the internet traders.

16. The current empty rates policy is effectively a tax on employment and is dead income which is more likely to adversely affect the smaller business and consumer than achieve its goal of full use of property. With average High Street vacancy rates now at a record high of 14.6% it defies gravity to suggest it is having the desired effect except for increasing the number of charity shops.  There is no problem with charity shops which help recycle and keep frontages live but it does promote unfair trading against small businesses in some circumstances.

17. How does Empty Property Rate Policy square with NPPI and Business Rates Retention and is there a potential conflict of interest which will drive LA’s towards inappropriate policies for redevelopment and regeneration.

18. The NPPF and the concept of a presumption in favour of sustainable development is the right answer for the UK.  It was only in 2000 that the presumption in favour of development was removed.

19. Local Authorities will have to look at how they can become true JV Partners and not just facilitators.

20. LA’s must learn to use CPO powers more effectively.  Significant concerns exist about LA’s ability to become effective business planners and be a true part of the process (only 40% had adopted local plans after 7 years).  This is a considerable potential weak spot which could undermine the development of town centres and local economies.

21. LA procurement must be far better organised, less complicated, focus on the outputs, significantly reduce the costs of competitive tendering and weight performance criteria for delivery more appropriately and effectively.

22. LA securing of advice must be more focused on expertise and reflect market criteria again with performance elements at the forefront and discourage standardised reporting in favour of tailor made and effective assessments.

23. Financial viability is a key factor too often overlooked and rarely understood in the arena of planning and the understanding the art of the possible.  Sustainable viable development must be properly investigated, assessed and understood.  Good planning can no longer avoid this vital and key ingredient but must embrace the market unless it provides the capital to fill the non commercially viable areas.  This understanding will be vital to the appropriate use of S106 and S278 agreements and CILS.

24. Sustainability issues must be embedded and part of the process not a separate function divorced from the key elements of property and land use.  Future use of and manipulation of EPC’s could have a major impact on costs and opportunities but against the background that annual property development is only at 1% on average of the total stock per annum.

25. The suggestion that poor landlords will lose their properties or that vacant property will be taken over is questionable and probably prove to be a costly experiment if utilised which will not be in the public interest unless it is part of a planned process involving proper business planning and the use of CPO’s.

26. The Use Classes Order needs review but it is the application of the uses which is key not necessarily their simplification.

27. Out of centre shopping is usually misunderstood. As examples shopping parks may be a competitive threat but bulky goods parks are usually an important facility supportive of a central shopping area and help retain retail spend in an area. Food superstores are usually effective and supportive reducing travel but become a threat when they are extended to include non bulky non food goods which are competitive to otherwise effective town centre sales.

28. The property market works in cycles because it has a natural long lead in period and requires large capital commitments. The equilibrium will move to the positive but this cycle and the current downturn will be long term.