Radix and coalition of high street stakeholders publish plans for town centre revival
A coalition of retailers, local authorities, landlords, investors, lawyers and Community organisations – including the British Property Federation, charitable trust Power to Change, local government network, New Local, Shoosmiths, and members of the government’s High Street Taskforce – working together with Radix have published plans to deliver a high street revival across the country.
Radix and Platform Places’ report, A Platform for Places, includes proposals to promote localised partnerships between social enterprises, councils and national landlords, create a High Street Buyout Fund and give local social enterprises practical support to identify new uses for empty high street buildings and bring businesses back to failing high streets.
The paper is the first initiative of the cross-sector coalition, Platform Places, launching later this summer. It aims to be a catalyst to encourage communities, property owners, investors and local and national government to work together in partnership, to drive positive social change on high streets and in town centres.
The report’s proposals – based on bringing to scale successful case studies from Oxfordshire, Sheffield, Belfast, Islington, Plymouth and elsewhere – include:
- The creation of a High Street Buyout fund to help communities move at the pace of the market to purchase empty high street property and build long-term resilience in town centres.
- A specific business rates relief for regulated socially-trading organisations (Community Interest Companies and Community Benefit Societies), set at a minimum of 50 per cent of their business rates bill
- A proposal that the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities directs local authorities to adopt community lettings policies to enable council property teams to lease or sell assets on favourable terms, to support local social enterprise
- Growing the Heritage Development Trust, piloted by the Historic Coventry Trust, to use historic assets to revitalise high streets – modelled on the Scottish Land Fund
- A consultation process around Community Right to Buy, to help community groups purchase long-term vacant or derelict property (as in Scotland), with suitable protections for landowners
- Support, as a last resort, for councils to use CPOs to tackle buildings that are long-term vacant or derelict without a valid reason
Commenting on the report’s recommendations, Radix CEO, Ben Rich, says:
“A Platform for Places is a new community-led strategy to revive our high streets, based on practical experience of what works. It is led from the bottom up, but the opportunity exists for the Government to turbocharge its impact by taking on board these proposals to bring vibrancy, increased footfall and new revenue to struggling town centres.”
Platform Places convenor, Rebecca Trevalyan, adds:
“From community kitchens to music and arts venues, co-working spaces to local radio stations, community-led wind and solar projects to boxing gyms – these businesses bring town centres to life.
“There’s no other forum that will bring local social enterprises like these together with council leaders and national property owners and investors. So as to infuse neighbourhoods with a strong sense of purpose.”
“We’re excited to be bringing together these unlikely allies in town centres around the UK – to unlock underused buildings for amazing ideas”
Nathan Rees, real estate partner at Shoosmiths, said:
“The aim of Platform for Places is to put forward workable solutions for revitalising our high streets – maximising the power of real estate and driving economic growth. This hinges on successfully bringing together public and private partners and ensuring that the proposals put forward are commercially viable for landlords and investors, as well as community-led or smaller businesses that can maximise under-utilised or vacant assets.”
Kirsty Black, Shoosmiths partner and real estate disputes specialist, added:
“The proposals presented in this report – through working examples – are centred on collaboration, social value and mutual benefit. We want to see a joined up, future-proofed vision. One that allows everyone to gain from creating more accessible and prosperous urban centres.”