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CBI and EC Harris seek boost in public funds used for regeneration

Public funds and surplus land should be used to kick-start town centre regeneration projects across the UK, the CBI and EC Harris have said in a new report.

In The next regeneration: Unlocking local growth, the CBI and EC Harris provide a blueprint for the regeneration of high streets and their surrounding areas.

New affordable homes, office space and infrastructure improvements are needed to help regenerate town and city centres, they said.

The firms called on the public sector to back schemes with its balance sheet and surplus land and property assets to encourage private sector investment and speed up construction.

They also recommended that planning restrictions be relaxed to make it easier to convert shops into homes on the high street, where one in seven shops is vacant.

“Too many grand regeneration projects of the past have failed to deliver and public money has been wasted”

Katja Hall, CBI

EC Harris UK regional leader Tim Neal said surplus built assets would be attractive to developers, while the private sector also has an important role to play.

“With more than £490bn of cash sat on the balance sheets of UK businesses, the private sector certainly has the capacity to foster the growth of our local economies,” Mr Neal said.

The report highlighted that local leadership is needed to co-ordinate a wide range of stakeholders in regeneration projects, and that businesses should form strong Local Enterprise Partnerships.

“With more than £490bn of cash sat on the balance sheets of UK businesses, the private sector certainly has the capacity to foster the growth of our local economies”

Tim Neal, EC Harris

It also encouraged central government, local authorities and businesses to work together to pool funding and produce masterplans to ensure proposals get off the ground, particularly where infrastructure is concerned.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “Too many grand regeneration projects of the past have failed to deliver and public money has been wasted.

“We want to ensure growth reaches all parts of the UK and that means co-ordinated action to rejuvenate our towns and cities,” she added.

The CBI also urged reform of the business rates system. It called for a year-long business rates ‘holiday’ for those that move into empty properties and a cap on rates increases for all town centre businesses.

The report recommends

  • Strong local leaders to co-ordinate a wide range of stakeholders and deliver a vision for development.
  • Effective planning, achieved through earlier private sector engagement and establishment of arm’s-length bodies to deliver masterplans.
  • Planning changes to make it easier to convert shops into homes and a cap on business rates increases.
  • Infrastructure improvements should be integrated with regeneration plans and local and national funds should be joined up to deliver them.
  • Public money should be used to back schemes that will generate long-term returns and surplus public assets should be used for regeneration.

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