As announced by Grant Shapps MP in Government’s response to the Portas Review and led by BCSC (British Council of Shopping Centres), the Distressed Retail Property Taskforce (DRPT) is being launched today in order to encourage investment in distressed town centre retail property. It will consider ways of getting investment into failing or indebted town centre properties.

A private sector-led group, DRPT will comprise experts from a number of the major real estate lenders, pension funds and trade organisations including the British Property Federation and British Retail Consortium. Officials from Government departments, including CLG, will be observers on the group. By bringing together expertise from across the industry, its ultimate aim is to help address issues of physical degeneration, falling footfall, reduced investment and associated social decline in towns and cities across the UK.

Mark Williams, Chairman, Distressed Retail Property Taskforce and director of Hark Asset management, went on to say:

“Empty or dilapidated property is a visible symptom of the struggle town centres are facing. The underlying problems are complex and the challenges in tackling these issues are significant. As such they can only be addressed if the right organisations and the right people come together and make it happen. I am pleased the industry is taking such a pro-active role.”

“Falling capital values and squeezed income streams have meant that many shopping centres and town centre retail properties now have a value significantly less than the level of debt held against them. Given current economic conditions, lenders are unwilling, or unable, to offload these properties and write off the debt, or to loan out more money to improve them. The negative knock-on effect on the wider area is physical degeneration and social decline.

Peter Drummond, President, British Council of Shopping Centres, said:

“It is our intention to draw professionals together from across the industry, working in consultation with local and central government, to address a situation that has essentially created an economic impasse in many places around the UK, especially in secondary retail locations. By working together to develop a full picture of the issue and its impact on town centres, we will be in a better position to uncover a workable long term solution.”

DRPT will look at a series of actions initially aimed at identifying the true scale of the problem and specific shopping centres and towns that are being affected. The group will then work to ascertain the core issues around property lenders or administrators’ inability to invest in or sell on the retail property assets in question and assess ways to remove the associated barrier to progress.