BPF: Grimsey Review is right to put local leadership at heart of future UK high street action plan

6 Jul 2018

Policy area: BPF

The British Property Federation (BPF) today urges Government to support Bill Grimsey’s call for the creation of a Town Centre Commission. Strong local leadership – with vision, an actionable plan and the power to deliver positive impact – will be critical in shaping the future success of UK high streets.

Bill Grimsey, former chief executive of Wickes and Iceland, today published his Grimsey Review 2 of the high street, in which he recommended:

  • Establish an empowered organisation or Town Centre Commission under strong established leadership through the local authority (LA) for each town centre with a defined remit to build a 20-year vision/strategy for their unique place. Ensure that this vision is underpinned by a comprehensive business/place plan. 

Further recommendations that the BPF believes will make a positive impact, to ensure high streets not only survive, but thrive, include:

  • Enable the change of use process through new legislation to be used to convert entire sub-high streets to residential or other uses within the agreed town plan and relocate successful independent businesses to the main commercial centre. 
  • Connect planning applications and in particular new developments to the business plan for each town and ensure that developments fit within the criteria set by the Town Centre Commission Plan.
  • Review Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) provision and make it more straight forward for Local Authorities to enforce a CPO in order to benefit the Town Centre Commission Plan.

Back in 2013, Grimsey published his first Review of the high street, in which he called for a ‘root and branch’ review of business rates. Five years later, this review and a much-needed overhaul of the business rates system have still not been undertaken, and Grimsey rightfully calls Government to once again accept that there is no confidence in the system. The BPF reiterates this call and stresses that while some progress has been made, the system remains fundamentally unfit for purpose and businesses continue to struggle.

Melanie Leech, Chief Executive, British Property Federation comments:

"This is a commendable report that deserves serious attention by policymakers and politicians. A group of experts have said we need to reinvent our town centres and had the gumption to set out how we might go about it. Many of our towns are going to need significant adaptation.

“The report rehearses well the powers, partnerships, and policies that will help. It recognises the critical role of local authorities as placemakers – and it also recognises that you cannot have a serious conversation about the challenges faced by high streets, without considering the impact of business rates."