Call for government to drive investment into the high street

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The Independent Online

The retail head of FTSE 100 property group Land Securities is calling on the Government to take action to improve towns and high streets ahead of a report by Mary Portas, which is due out before Christmas.

He also called for banks and owners of failing shops and shopping centres to invest or sell up.

Richard Akers, the president of the retail property association, BCSC, and managing director for retail at Land Securities, said: "If the Portas Review is not backed up by a robust package of measures that all point to one thing – driving investment into our town centres – it will all be for nothing."

Banks often end up taking control of failing shopping centres when the owners can no longer afford loan repayments.

Mark Williams, a director of DTZ and a BCSC board member, said: "There are a large number of shopping centres failing to meet the public need. If you own a town centre shopping centre you have a responsibility to the people of that town. The BCSC believes public intervention is needed in many locations to ensure investment is made or the owners should sell."

Mr Akers added: "There are properties where owners have lost money since values crashed in 2008, and are now reluctant to invest in them further. However, vibrant centres rely on bringing these properties back to market, and encouraging banks to release new capital to improve them."

Mike Rowlands, the head of retail at Strutt & Parker, said: "An investor cannot just stand still and not asset manage or invest. It is not just improving the value of a centre, it is about investing to ensure the value of the asset doesn't go in to further freefall."

The non-prime retail property assets being sold are reaching investment yields of more than 10 per cent – in stark contrast to yields of below 5 per cent for the same properties in the boom years.