Landlords signal greater high street optimism

by Daniel Jones

Landlords could be set to sign more commercial lease agreements, as the government signals its response to Mary Portas's review of the high street. The Queen of Shops was called on by the government to review the retail sector and come up with ways of kick-starting growth.

Among her recommendations, which the government has accepted, is the establishment of a multi-million pound High Street Innovation Fund – boosted by £10 million of taxpayers' money focused on bringing empty shops back into use. If supplemented by both councils and landlords, this could see £30 million going to support new business start-ups, while bringing empty high street properties back into use.

Ms Portas also called for a £1 million Future High-Street X-Fund, which will be awarded to the locations that deliver the most creative and effective schemes to revitalise the high streets in a year's time. A £500,000 fund for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), to help town centres access loans for their set-up costs, was another of the main recommendations.

The government's response included formalising landlord involvement in BIDs via a vote and levy, and a review of the use of the annual RPI uplift for business rates.

It will also look at methods of being more flexible in allowing the conversion of space above shops into flats and new ways of promoting the Leasing Business Premises code.

The British Property Federation welcomed the government's response to the Portas review. Its chief executive, Liz Peace, believes landlords have an important role in rejuvenating the UK's high streets.

"Landlords are active and interested partners on our high streets," she explains. "Our high streets need investment and one of the recommendations that I hope will now be taken forward with haste is to investigate how we can formalise landlord involvement in BIDs."

"We also look forward to progressing the recommendation on promoting the lease code. This presents a great opportunity, not only to promote responsible leasing, but also to bring to greater prominence what our industry does, which is to make space for tomorrow's entrepreneurs."

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Published on: April 3, 2012

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