Landlords welcome plan to save Scotland’s high streets

4 Jul 2013

Policy area: Town centres

The Scottish Property Federation today welcomed a Government commissioned independent report recommending local authorities adopt a town centre first policy and Holyrood takes a fresh look at business rates incentives.

The National Review of Town Centres, led by architect Malcolm Fraser, recognised that the solution to ailing high streets is not just going to be retail, but a stronger mix of leisure, public facilities and homes in towns.

The recommendations of the review include:

  • A "town centre first" principle whereby public bodies will consider how they can support town centres before considering development elsewhere
  • Working with housing providers to bring empty town centre properties back into use as affordable housing
  • A town centre focus to review current business rates incentivisation schemes
  • A recommendation that public bodies should consider the impact of proposals to relocate services out of town centres
  • Broadening the appeal of town centres with a mix of leisure, public facilities and homes.

David Melhuish, director of the Scottish Property Federation, said: “The issues of concern with the high street have been with us for some 30-40 years now. Put simply the high street needs to redefine itself as a destination.  The fundamentals have completely shifted and we need to think differently about how we’re going to make our town centres a place for people to use going forward.

“Retail isn’t the only solution. High streets rely on footfall and anything that can be done to drive this should be encouraged - whether this be leisure, medical surgeries or even homes.  Diversification will be key for former retail units that may not be viable again as shops.

“As things stand this review recommends strengthening much existing policy, such as the sequential approach to development, the business rates incentivisation scheme and the limited support available for converting former commercial premises to residential uses.  We welcome however the proposal that large public sector bodies themselves should support town centres in terms of their own corporate location.  Government clearly has a lot of hard work to do in pulling together an action plan in the autumn.”