23 May 2024 | High Street | Politics

BPF Spotlight Series: Retail Property Manifesto

We recently launched our first sector-focused manifesto ahead of the UK general election: ‘Building Destinations, Supporting Communities - The BPF manifesto for Retail Property’.

To learn more, we caught up with BPF Policy Manager Adam Cohen. Here’s what he had to say.


What is the BPF Retail Manifesto?

The manifesto is our vision for how retail property can be used to support vibrant, mixed use town centres, high streets and retail parks. Getting this right is important – it means healthy local economies that foster independent businesses and local jobs. It also means communities that people are proud of.

It was developed by our Retail Board, major owners, investors and managers of retail property and draws on their expertise to build on one of the key themes of the overarching BPF manifesto, ‘building stronger town centres’.


The manifesto mentions public services and housing – how do they fit in?

We call it a retail manifesto, but it’s also about delivering mixed-use leisure, community and public services. Locating public services in retail centres helps make services more accessible, fills empty units and brings footfall for local traders.

For housing, repurposing empty space won’t solve the housing crisis, but it’s part of the solution. It also creates more vibrant town centres and makes investment, including into transport links, more viable.


How have wider retail trends impacted the sector?

Many things have impacted ‘bricks and mortar’ retail – online shopping, the pandemic, and the loss of well-known brands. The popularity of out-of-town locations has also impacted many town centres.

Although there’s lots of variation across the sector, with strength in prime retail and retail parks, there’s an oversupply of retail across the UK. For owners and investors, the value of many assets has also fallen reducing their ability to invest.

The main challenge is to make investment viable – whether that investment is seeking to improve locations, to bring more people to them, or to support larger regeneration aims. The industry brings capital as well as expertise, experience and capacity, so let’s find the best ways to enable that.


What solutions does the manifesto offer?

We’re advocates of strong local public-private partnerships. Having these in place, with a long-term vision with local buy-in, helps facilitate investment.

An approach we recommend is Town Centre Investment Zones. Where partnerships are formed and plans developed, they can then access additional powers to overcome challenges in the local area.

A properly resourced and smoother planning system is also vital. Investors aren’t expecting plans to be automatically approved, but lengthy decisions and uncertainty around outcomes is going to deter investment.

Boosting sustainability is a priority, and relatively small changes can help. Let’s remove the planning approval requirement for rooftop solar and larger electric vehicle charging and make it easier to share energy use data between owners and tenants.


Find out more about our General Election 2024 campaign and our manifestos here.


About Adam

Adam covers retail and commercial policy at the BPF. He joined the BPF in January and supports the Retail Board, Commercial, Insolvency and Insurance committees.

Share this blog linkedIn icon twitter icon email icon