LOCAL authorities are failing to plan ahead for retail investment and local infrastructure projects are suffering as a result according to the British Council of Shopping Centres.
In its submission to the government ahead of the Budget the council claimed the government-sanctioned Town Centres First planning policy is not being applied consistently despite a clear requirement within the National Planning Policy Framework to consider in-town sites ahead of out-of-town developments.
“Even where councils are taking seriously the challenge of high street rejuvenation, the cost of town centre development and associated infrastructure compared to out-of-town leaves a significant viability gap and financial stalemate,” it said.
BCSC believes developer-led Tax Increment Financing is a funding model that reduces the risk of town centre regeneration, increasing the chance of development getting off the ground and offering the greatest chance for successful projects in and around high streets to be delivered with a boost to local construction.
So-called, ‘shovel-ready’ urban schemes – with planning permissions, anchor retailers securing development and ongoing investment funding – are on the starting blocks but prevented from kicking off as hefty local infrastructure projects often mean the difference between a profitable and non-profitable scheme.
Urging government to think again on TIF, Edward Cooke, the council’s director of policy, BCSC, said: “Almost everyone supports the principle of town centre retail-led regeneration, especially austerity-crippled local authorities.”
It said its ‘pay as you go’ model could deliver hundreds of millions of pounds worth of much-needed local infrastructure and associated construction jobs.
“Under this funding model, retail property developers stand ready to take one hundred per cent of the risk away from the public sector and deliver local infrastructure out of their own pockets to be repaid out of future increases in business rates. This really feels like a ‘win-win’ to many in the property sector and we strongly urge government to begin formal discussions and overcome what Vince Cable has recently called ‘mundane classification issues’.”
BCSC is also calling on the government to assess how effectively national retail planning policy is being implemented as a tool to rejuvenate towns and cities before permitting out-of-town development. In order to even begin considering funding, local authorities must engage more creatively with the private sector as they consider what is best for their local communities.
Image – Hefty local infrastructure projects often mean the difference between a profitable and non-profitable scheme.