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High streets need ‘aggressive’ remedy, says taskforce

By Tom Forrest | 29 November 2013

Councils should be encouraged to make ‘aggressive’ use of compulsory purchase orders to help bring about an urban regeneration, the Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce has recommended.

The taskforce, set up following the Portas review into the future of high streets, suggests that an ‘unprecedented’ scale of change and remodelling is required in our town centres. It calls for greater use of CPOs and a major rethink of planning rules.

‘Use of CPO powers is a powerful tool for the regeneration of town centres,’ the taskforce’s report, Beyond retail, states.

‘Councils, rather than the Homes and Communities Agency, are best placed to promote CPO as they are elected bodies responsible to the local electorate.’

Members of the taskforce include senior retailers, property investors, landlords and bankers. Chair Mark Williams claimed that many town centres faced ‘terminal decline’ and that urgent action was needed.

‘Strong local leadership is a prerequisite for the major repositioning, redevelopment and large-scale, long-term master planning now required to meet the demands of modern communities,’ he said.

Williams, who is a partner at the retail property firm the Hark Group, called on the government to designate town and city centres as key national ‘infrastructure’ and to review the system of business rates.

He said that high streets had changed dramatically in the past five years, due to the recession and the increased use of online shopping. There were now too many shops.

‘Solutions vary from place to place but for the overwhelming majority a smaller retail core supplemented by leisure, residential and community uses is likely. Current retail models are not fit for purpose.’

A return to ‘normal’ economic growth will not save the high street, he suggested. ‘Successful rejuvenation of the nation’s city and town centres requires radical action on a scale unprecedented since the country was rebuilt after World War Two.’


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