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Portas Review taskforce launched to tackle distressed retail property

A Distressed Retail Property Taskforce has been launched, as a response to Mary Portas's high street review, in a bid to increase investment into town centre shops.

The government-backed taskforce, led by the British Council of Shopping Centres, will look to identify the core issues around property lenders' or administrators' inability to invest in or sell some retail properties and assess ways in which they can be regenerated.

The taskforce will comprise between 15-20 industry figures from across the retail property market, including landlords, council representatives, lenders, pension fund and trade organisations including the British Property Federation and the British Retail Consortium.

Officials from government departments, including Communitie and Local Government, will observe the group.

Mark Williams, a director at Hark will chair the taskforce. He said: "The underlying problems are complex and the challenges in tackling these issues are significant. As such they can be addressed only if the right organisations and the right people come together and make it happen. I am pleased the industry is taking such a proactive 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."

Peter Drummond, president of BCSC, added: "By working together to develop a full picture of the issue and its impact on town centres, we will be in a better position to uncover a workable long-term solution."

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