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Big names unite to tackle high street blight (2)

Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Legal & General have joined a task force set up in the wake of the Mary Portas review aimed at addressing the blight of UK town centres.

The Distressed Town Centre Taskforce, which includes senior figures from the retail, property and banking sectors, today announced plans to carry out a review of UK towns and cities to identify ways to improve the “vitality and performance” of town centres.

The conclusions of the report will be submitted to Mark Prisk, minister of state for housing and local government.

gwydion-williams
Source: Gwydion Williams

The government appointed TV presenter Mary Portas as high street Tsar in summer 2011 in an attempt to address declining town centres. The task force has been put in place to address the property aspects of the report’s recommendations.

High Street occupiers face a £175m hike in rates next year following a 2.6% rise in inflation. They were put under further pressure two weeks ago by the government’s decision to postpone the 2015 ratings revaluation – the recalculation of business rates more fairly – by a further two years.

Prisk said: ““I look forward to seeing the conclusions that the group reaches, and how our network of over 300 Town Team Partners and 27 Portas Pilots across the country can use their findings to breathe new life into their high streets.”

Other members of the force include Association of Chief Estates Surveyors (ACES), the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC), the British Property Federation (BPF), the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the Investment Property Forum (IPF), the Local Government Association (LGA), theProperty Bankers Forum (PBF), the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and The Booksellers Association, GL Hearn, Gloucestershire LEP, and the Javelin Group.

Mark Williams, Chairman, Distressed Town Centre Taskforce and partner at asset managers, Hark Group, commented:

“The Taskforce recognises that our High Streets are going through a structural recalibration, rather than an economic cycle from which we will emerge over time. The wider economic, consumer and retail markets have moved at a pace that our High Streets and property in general, have not been fast enough to adapt. The reasons for this need careful examination as a way of understanding what the current property-related barriers to rejuvenation are, and what the range of options or solutions could be.

“The solutions to re-establishing town centres as dominant locations for the communities they serve and the local economies which rely on their prosperity will vary and involve both public and private sector property. Critically though, the Prime Minister has pushed the plight of the High Street high up the political agenda. This research will provide hard evidence to allow tough choices over priorities to be made. Mary Portas’ enthusiasm, profile and energy will ensure that the topic remains a high priority by the time we report.”

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