|Tipping point for town centres rallies public and private sector together
With many town centres continuing to feel the impact of the economic downturn, BCSC and the Local Government Association are meeting today at the annual BCSC conference in Liverpool. Their meeting marks the launch of new relationship exploring new opportunities to stimulate investment in the high streets up and down the country.
Building on the impetus generated by Mary Portas’s governmental review and pilot towns scheme, this coming together of private and public sectors is the latest step in a drive to get retail-led development off the ground. The partnership aims to help cut through the detail of recent policy changes to help councils and investors seek new joint solutions and begin the process of regeneration in Britain’s towns and cities.
Although online retailing continues to impact on the UK’s high streets, investment in towns and cities remains imperative in retaining their vibrancy for both local community benefit and economic prosperity. However, an oversupply of old, tired retail space in some locations, combined with a lack of development finance is hampering progress. Indeed a Local Data Company report in the last week showed town centre retail vacancies were still firmly on the increase.
According to BCSC, many of the potential solutions lie in the hands of local authorities, working in partnership with private developers, as Peter Drummond, President of BCSC explains: “Government’s localism agenda is creating considerable freedoms and opportunities for local authorities to have a more active hand in facilitating development in their communities. What we are committing to is working with local councils across the country to better understand how these powers can be used to regenerate the UK’s ailing towns.
“We are at a tipping point in the health of many town centres and a proactive joined-up approach is critical: with local, as well as central government support, the retail and development industry will respond. Our partnership with the Local Government Association is therefore an important step to finding ways to make private and public sectors work more effectively together for mutual, lasting gain.”
Sir Merrick Cockell, Chairman of the Local Government Association adds: “We are pleased to work with the BCSC on regenerating our towns and cities.
“Town centres are at the heart of local economies and play a vital role in the life of communities. Up and down the country councils are working with business and other partners to drive growth and development.
"The national policy landscape is changing all the time, offering opportunities and challenges to local areas. Partnership is essential for a successful response locally, and we are keen to put our heads together with BCSC to work out how councils and the retail property sector can make the most of new local opportunities to revitalise our struggling high streets."