British Property Federation reacts to outline Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill

All comments below are attributable to Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation

 (i)                  On town centre regeneration and interventions on empty units

“We fully support Government’s ambitions to drive local growth and revitalise town centres but political gimmicks such as Compulsory Rent Auctions are not the solution, and will deter – rather than encourage – investment into the areas where it is most needed.

“No property owner wants their premises to be empty. In our experience, property owners are willing to do zero-rent deals to avoid boarded up shopfronts but the burden of business rates and other occupational costs mean it is still unviable for many small and independent businesses to trade from town centre premises.

“This is the moment for a system change in how we approach town centre regeneration. This means fundamental reform of the business rates system and more creative and sustainable solutions, such as the BPF’s proposal for ‘Town Centre Investment Zones’ which would accelerate regeneration through a combination of tax and community incentives, planning freedoms and public-private partnerships.

“The property sector is a key partner for Government in levelling up the UK economy and we are ready to work with Ministers and with local leaders through this session to find new and sustainable solutions.”

(ii)                On changes to the planning system  

“The planning system sits right at the heart of the Government’s levelling up ambitions and it is vital there is the necessary framework, support and investment to ensure it is fit for this purpose.

“We support the Government’s ambition to ensure up to date local plans are in place across the country to provide the framework to stimulate private sector investment.

“The digitisation of the system is long overdue, and we must harness digital platforms to engage ‘the silent majority’, including younger generations, in shaping our towns and cities for the future.”

(iii)              On the introduction of an infrastructure levy

The aim of simplifying the planning system by introducing a standard infrastructure levy is a laudable one, however, the Government should be aware that a one size fits all approach will not work across all areas of the UK and risks turning off investment in the areas where regeneration is most needed. We urge Government to work with the industry to develop the detail of the new levy and to adopt a pilot approach to make sure that it works in practice and not just on paper, to support the delivery of homes and sustainable communities across the country.”