New approach needed to revitalise Britain’s high streets

Shoppers

A hard-hitting report has proposed a radical new model to get investment back into Britain’s high streets.

The Town Centre Investment Zones report, launched today (18th January), demonstrates that asset management of the high street could unlock much-needed investment for local authorities and communities to transform their areas.

Having identified that fragmented ownership and poor asset management are overriding factors in the high street’s inability to adapt to change, the group used three town centres as pilot studies to show that by taking a more structured approach to a high street’s offering, investment can be attracted and bring about fundamental change.

The report, carried out by Peter Brett Associates with Bond Dickinson and Citi Centric, suggests that Town Centre Investment Management (TCIM), which involves the pooling of a critical mass of property assets into an investment vehicle, will allow the assets to be managed and curated, rejuvenating the high street.

The model enables the existing stock to adapt to the various challenges facing the high street, such as changes in consumer behaviour and demands, and the changing retail landscape. It will allow local authorities to radically transform and future-proof their high streets, ensuring that they have a better consumer offering, which could include housing and more leisure space.

The TCIM model is attractive to investors, who see the new opportunities it presents, delivering scale and growth potential. Retail is traditionally an attractive asset due to its good long-term prospects.

The report goes on to recommend that the areas designated for the asset management treatment should be set up as Town Centre Investment Zones (TCIZs), in order to provide coherence, leadership and a clearer focus for all involved and a clear signal to potential investors that all local stakeholders are aligned. These Zones would also benefit from being given, in due course, a range of concessions similar to Enterprise and Housing Zones, as well as the support given to business neighbourhood planning.

Further recommendations in the report include:

  • Government should provide further financial support to examine how funding prototypes for the pilots might work;
  • TCIM should be endorsed and promoted by DCLG as one of the solutions to address failing or under-performing town centres;
  • DCLG and Treasury should encourage investment in town centres by developing a package of special incentives or measures that could apply to TCIZs;
  • Government should promote the concept of Town Centre Investment Zones as the means of giving town centre investment real focus;
  • Further work should be undertaken, led by DCLG with the support of the private sector, to encourage the setting up of a Town Centre Investment Fund, involving a number of town centre investment opportunities.

Liz Peace, Chairman of the Fragmented Ownership Group, said: “Many town centres are currently focussed on an outmoded retail model that needs substantial structural change. Resurrecting their fortunes will not be achieved simply by the superficial and largely cosmetic measures that have so far been applied. This new and more fundamental approach, using proper asset management techniques, offers us the best and maybe the only, hope of making lasting and beneficial change.”

CJ Lang – Christie