Out of town and out of control

Posted by Jaya on 3rd Dec 2012

Landlords of 42 town centre shopping schemes have accused the Government of sacrificing Britain’s high street in its haste to promote the “growth agenda”. 

The owners of more than £2 billion of retail town schemes said that “out-of-control, totally inappropriate and highly speculative” out-of-town developments were being promoted at the expense of the country’s struggling town centres. 

In an open letter to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the landlords complain that they no longer trust ministers who argue that existing planning policy is being applied in a “transparent and even-handed manner”. 

Mark Robinson, a founding partner of Ellandi, a property company with £150 million of retail schemes in Cornwall, Northamptonshire, Kent and Somerset, said: “What is really upsetting us is that we have invested in town centres and we know what we are doing. However, it is hard enough managing a town centre development without having to spend lots of time and money fighting outrageous out-of-town planning applications. 

“You don’t have the lights switched on or a Santa’s grotto on a retail park. Communities are built around town centres and, while it may be more convenient to rock up and park at an out-of-town shopping scheme, it decimates town centres — and we will be living with that for decades.”

Landlords including the listed companies Helical Bar, Capital & Regional and New River, as well as F&C Reit, Addington Capital, Hark Group and Ellandi, are among the signatories to the letter. All have invested in “secondary” town centre schemes since 2009. 

In the letter they write: “It has become clear that a number of out-of-town developers have submitted highly speculative and totally inappropriate schemes throughout the UK, mostly completely contrary to existing planning policy. Local opinion is often bought with the promise of job creation, with little or no consideration given to the fact that this will mostly be at the expense of existing town centre jobs and investment.” 

Property values in secondary town centres have been hard hit since the recession. Phil Tily, the UK and Ireland managing director for IPD, said that the decline in secondary property had been “worse than initially feared”. In a report to be published this week, he said that secondary retail property in the North West was the worst-hit; values had fallen by 55 per cent since the peak. 

Last year the Government pledged to help Britain’s ailing high streets and, in its new National Planning Policy Framework, said that it had strengthened the “town centre first” policy, which requires developers building outside town centres to demonstrate before they do so that there was no suitable alternative site centrally. 

Since then there have been several controversial out-of-town applications. In October, for example, LXB Retail Properties was granted permission by East Northamptonshire Council for a 465,000 sq ft out-of-town retail scheme at Rushden Lakes. Metric Property and Mercian Developments have lodged a plan for a large out-of-town scheme in Cornwall. 

Out-of-town developers say their schemes attract spending, encourage growth in local economies and enjoy widespread support from retailers, shoppers and councils.

Deirdre Hipwell Published at 12:01AM, December 3 2012

A copy of the letter to Eric Pickes is attached below.

Source: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/business/industries/construction-property/article3618378.ece

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