Industry taskforce launched to tackle town centre stalemate

A taskforce was launched today to encourage investment in distressed town centre retail property.

Led by the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce aims to help address issues of physical degeneration, falling footfall, reduced investment and associated social decline in towns and cities across the UK.

The group will be led by private sector companies comprising experts from real estate lenders, pension funds and trade organisations, including the British Property Federation and British Retail Consortium.

Officials from Government departments, including The Department for Communities and Local Government, will be observers on the group. MP Grant Shapps announced the formation of the taskforce when he responded to the Portas Review.

The Taskforce chairman Mark Williams, who is director of Hark Asset management, said: “Empty or dilapidated property is a visible symptom of the struggle town centres are facing. The underlying problems are complex and the challenges in tackling these issues are significant. As such they can only be addressed if the right organisations and the right people come together and make it happen. I’m pleased the industry is taking such a pro-active role.”

“Falling capital values and squeezed income streams have meant that many shopping centres and town centre retail properties now have a value significantly less than the level of debt held against them. Given current economic conditions, lenders are unwilling, or unable, to offload these properties and write off the debt, or to loan out more money to improve them. The negative knock-on effect on the wider area is physical degeneration and social decline.”

The Taskforce will identify the scale of the problem and pinpoint specific shopping centres and towns that are affected. It will then try and tackle the reasons for property lenders or administrators’ inability to invest in or sell on the retail property assets.

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