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Revo welcomes HCLG Select Committee report on future of high streets

Revo, which represents all stakeholders in the £360 billion retail property sector, has welcomed the outcome of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee's inquiry which calls for 'urgent action' from the Government and greater intervention from local authorities to prevent 'some high streets and town centres disappearing altogether'.

Mark Williams, Director of Hark Group and former President of Revo and Ed Cooke, Chief Executive of Revo, presented evidence to the inquiry on 22 October 2018. Revo responds below to some of the recommendations presented in the HCLG Select Committee report:

Mark Williams, Director at Hark Group and former President of Revo, said: I welcome the recommendations that also support what the Future High Street Forum was seeking in 2013. Critically, it recognises the need for Local Authority intervention to bring about the transformation and rejuvenation in many of our towns. Creating a level playing field with online and a much overdue review of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954 are critical aspects identified by the Committee. In these areas both retailers and investors want to come together to find solutions that Government can now act on."

Ed Cooke, Chief Executive at Revo, said: "We have been vociferous campaigners on the need to reform the outdated business rates system and level the playing field between physical and online retail. The Select Committee's recommendation that proposals for an online sales tax should be assessed urgently, and that complete alternatives to business rates should be considered, increases pressure on Government to look properly at the damage wrought in town centres buy this uncompetitive tax. The market has changed dramatically since the 2015 review Government must recognise and act swiftly on this new reality."

Mark Robinson, President at Revo, said: "We welcome the Select Committee's report, which is a positive addition to the debate around the future of town centres. The Committee has addressed the structural issues impacting the adaptation of town centres, namely business rates and the planning system, and the myriad issues impacting delivery at the local level. What is clear – an indeed encouraging – is that there is a broad consensus across property owners and retailers on the action required. After such a comprehensive analysis the onus is on Government to listen, finally take meaningful action to address the unfairness in the tax system, modern leasing and inflexibility of the planning system, to empower local stakeholders to start making positive change today."

On proposed reform to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954

Ed Cooke said: "We are encouraged that the Select Committee agrees that reform of the Landlord & Tenant Act is long overdue. The legislation as it stands encourages an adversarial relationship between property owners and occupiers, and does not provide the flexibility both parties need to ensure that commercial space can be utilised, adapted and leased according to evolving market conditions and changes in consumer behaviour. There is agreement across our membership that the adaptation of town centres could be accelerated by reforming this legislation."

On the need for greater intervention from local authorities

Ed Cooke said: "The Select Committee has rightly concluded that the adaptation of town centres must be enabled at a local level and has made some positive recommendations to empower local authorities. The proposed streamlining of Compulsory Purchase Orders would help fast-track town centre regeneration that has been frustrated by property owners, and we agree with the review of Permitted Development Rights, which are not the panacea for housing delivery they were predicted to be and has led to incoherent town centre development which does not support these places in the long term. We hope to see these recommendations put into practice."