BUSINESS RATES BIGGEST THREAT TO UK HIGH STREET REVIVAL
Major policy reform required to unlock vision, stimulate investment and create cohesion.
Business rates reform is one of the main catalysts required to deliver the UK’s much needed high street revival, according to a recent survey of key town centre managers, investors, and occupiers. The annual report, launched this week by property consultancy Lambert Smith Hampton (LSH) and Revo, the retail leisure & placemaking real estate membership community, records the main concerns of the UK’s chief town centre stakeholders and offers a range of recommendations to accelerate or improve the ongoing high street renaissance.
Against the backdrop of Covid, it has emerged that UK’s placemakers perceive current business rates policy to be a bigger threat than online sales growth, an over-supply of retail space, the rise in home working and a lack of cohesive strategy- as critical as those issues are to town centre vibrancy. Vivienne King, board member at Revo referred to Government business rates reforms thus far being “temporary, peripheral and quite simply not good enough given the fundamental changes needed”.
It is recognised that any case for business rates reform must also consider local authorities’ obligations to raise revenue in order to deliver vital services. As such, business rates reform should be viewed holistically with other taxes as a lever to shape policy and stimulate renaissance rather than simply a bill to be reduced.
One such tax could be an online sales tax which received a rallying call from respondents for government intervention as a means to level the playing field between physical and online businesses. With online sales having received a huge boost by the pandemic, the volume of online sales has settled at around 25%, putting huge pressure on owners and operators of town centres to remain relevant and become engaging spaces in which to spend time.
The LSH/Revo report highlights some additional areas where immediate solutions are required if the UK’s town and city centres are to avoid a descent into long-term, or terminal, decline.