Town centre investment funds ‘could kick start stagnant high streets’

18 Jan 16

Councils have been urged to set up new town centre investment funds that could help revitalise high streets across the country in a report backed by the British Property Federation and the Department for Communities and Local Government.

An expert group today proposed that local government be encouraged to develop town centre investment zones that could bring together property owners and developers to revitalise local areas.

The Fragmented Ownership Group, which considered how to unite stakeholders to improve local areas, concluded that new Town Centre Investment Management groups would allow assets to be managed and curated.

The group identified fragmented ownership and poor asset management as overriding factors in the high street’s inability to adapt to change. A new structure for investment could pool a critical mass of property assets into an investment vehicle, thereby allowing investors to be able to fund developments at a large scale.

To incentivise the creation of these local groups, the report recommended introduction of investment incentives for Town Centre Investment Zones.

This could include business rate relief and additional capital allowances similar to Enterprise and Housing Zones, as well as the support given to businesses in neighbourhood planning.

Liz Peace, chair of the Fragmented Ownership Group and former BPF chief executive, said many town centres needed “substantial structural change”.

She added: “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.”

The report called on DCLG to undertake further work with the private sector on the creation of a Town Centre Investment Fund, which could bring together a number of town centre investment opportunities.

As well as DCLG and the BPF, the Fragmented Ownership Group includes the Association of Town and City Management and the Greater London Authority.

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