A British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) led taskforce has been launched to encourage investment in desolate towns’ retail property.
The Distressed Retail Property Taskforce has been set up by the BCSC with the aim of addressing issues such as physical degeneration, falling footfall, reduced investment and associated social decline in towns and cities across the UK.
Officials from government departments will observe the group, which is being led by private sector companies including the British Retail Consortium and British Property Federation.
Director of Hark Asset Management and chairman of the taskforce, Mark Williams, said: “Empty or dilapidated property is a visible symptom of the struggle town centres are facing. The underlying problems are complex and the challenges in tackling these issues are significant. As such they can only be addressed if the right organisations and the right people come together and make it happen. I’m pleased the industry is taking such a pro-active 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.”
The taskforce aims to identify the scale of the problem and pinpoint specific shopping centres and towns affected. It will also attempt to find out and rectify the problems behind property lenders or administrators’ inability to invest in or sell on the retail property assets.