Fewer shops and new uses for High Streets, BPF tells retail committee

The British Property Federation has told an influential committee of MPs that in order for high streets to survive they need to contract and empty units be converted into other uses, such as residential and even community facilities like doctors and dentists surgeries.

Giving evidence at the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) inquiry into the retail sector chief executive of the British Property Federation Liz Peace also highlighted the damaging impact of business rates – both to retailers and landlords in the form of empty property rates – in driving money away from where it was most needed to help maintain and regenerate high streets.

Peace said:

“The 20th century saw a rapid expansion of high streets that simply cannot be supported today. Even putting aside the current economic troubles, there’s less demand for high street retail and we’re likely to witness further contractions, particularly outside the retail core.

“Facilitating this shrinkage while finding alternative uses for properties that clearly have no retail future is where the focus should be. And the solution isn’t necessarily retail; there are other uses, like doctors and dentists surgeries as well as residential that could occupy these buildings and drive football.

“With business rates in most parts of the country increasing far more rapidly than rents, and by over 200% since 1991, the burden to both retailers and landlords continues to increase.

“In terms of the bigger picture it needs to be considered whether a tax that exaggerates the advantages of internet retailers over the high street is fair at all.”