Town centre redevelopments hit by delays, research shows

June 12, 2012

More than four in 10 town centre redevelopments in England and Wales are delayed, halted or permanently stalled, new research shows.

At the same time a third of councils have no schemes planned at all.

These initial findings emerge from a survey of local authorities by property adviser GVA. It latest research bulletin, Unlocking Town Centre Retail Developments, shows a number of common factors are responsible for the delays including development viability (in 45% of cases), problems with site assembly (28%), weak occupier demand (23%) and problems with development financing (21%). 
The survey also shows that, of the schemes progressing with an original opening date, almost three quarters are anchored by a food store.
Matthew Morris, director of planning, development and regeneration at GVA’s Bristol office, said: “These findings illustrate the significant challenges that both local authorities and the private sector are facing while trying to progress retail-led town centre development.
“Here in the South West there are major live schemes in Gloucester and Weston-super-Mare but we have also seen stalled schemes in towns such as Yeovil.

“However, the picture is not all doom and gloom. Councils have indicated that they are looking at a range of options in order to keep schemes on track, including revisions to the size or mix of development, as well as considering alternative funding methods.
“The food store sector is clearly playing an important role in supporting town centre schemes and is becoming increasingly common in order to ensure a strong occupier covenant.
“The crisis faced by many town centres and how to revive them, has been extensively debated over recent months. The Portas Review made a series of sensible recommendations, most of which have been adopted by ministers.
“Portas money will be put to good use here in the South West, with investment heading in Bedminster.”
However, according to GVA’s report, the measures recommended by Portas are mainly palliative, and do not address the reasons why so many town centres are failing to achieve the meaningful new development and investment needed to secure their future.
Matthew added: “The Government has restated the longstanding “town centres first” planning policy, but the clear focus of development activity remains out of centre, to complement on-line sales growth. Unless there is a pipeline of suitable, viable and available town centre opportunities, and the Government enforces its policies, this trend will accelerate. 
“Given the critical importance of new investment in our town centres, it is vital that existing and new opportunities are re-evaluated.  It is too early to write off our town centres as being in a “death spiral”, but for some that is a very real risk without urgent action.”
The survey results and GVA’s latest research bulletin which explores how successful retail development can be promoted and delivered, is available from

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