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Govt needs to knock down hurdles to development, retail expert demands

The Government and Public Private Partnerships are hampering development and changes must be made if more work is to come online in the next few years, an industry chief has warned.

Cushman and Wakefield development partner Alistair Parker – chair of the 2009 British Council of of Shopping Centres conference, held this week in Manchester – slammed the Government for putting a large number of obstacles in the way of developers that prevented them applying their “energy, creativity and capital” to improve shopping centres.

The public procurement process was partly to blame, but a “complex, cumbersome and slow” planning policy was also at fault, Mr Parker said.

“There’s a lack of real infrastructure commitment that you can predict or rely on,” he told Construction News. “They really stand in the way.”

“At the moment public-private partnerships take a long time to start. [They] generally get involved in quite complex procedures, are quite expensive to run. They frequently have multiple objectives, some of which are conflicting. Efficient and effective are not the two first descriptions that come to mind.”

He pointed out that while councils have had more freedom to put their money into development over the years, changes to tax increment financing would also be a welcome boost.

“Key changes along the lines of TIFS – where development could keep additional revenue they generate which would not otherwise exist if it were not for the scheme happening – [would] provide a means to kick-starting regeneration,” Mr Parker said. “It’s a good link between a council’s policy and its financial returns.”

The BCSC conference, which closes tonight, has had a key focus on Government policy nationally and locally, sustainability issues and discussions of how to drive better performance out of existing centres and high streets.

“We will have speakers looking at the boredom threshold – some of these places are dull. It’s trying to make them more attractive places [in terms of] design, services, standards and better landlord retailer partnerships,” Mr Parker added.