This week (19-21 September) saw the great and good of retail gather at Manchester Central for the annual BCSC conference and exhibition.
The annual event, which is held by the British Council of Shopping Centres, in practise combines a retail and property focussed conference with an exhibition largely focussed on leasing
Despite the recent economic warnings the mood at BCSC amongst the agents, retailers and shopping centre owners and investors exhibiting at the show seemed positive and the atmosphere buzzing as they took advantage of the earlier timing of BCSC to do deals that could allow them to open stores pre-Christmas.
The conference saw much debate about the restrictions of planning – particularly following a letter to The Times on Monday signed by a number of retail leaders which cited just that.
After a group of retail developers including Hammerson and Land Securities wrote to Nick Clegg earlier this month to request a developer led Tax Increment Financing Model (TIF) the issue was raised by Hammerson’s development direct Mike McGuinness at the conference who said supporting the model – The Local Tax Re-Investment Programme (LTRIP) was the most important thing the public sector could do to support the return of economic growth in retail.
The model would allow projected increases in business rates created by new development to be used to secure private sector investment in public infrastructure.
The conference also saw a debate on the merits of localism with experts saying it shouldn’t be feared but that honesty and trust were key and that local communities needed to feel they could make a difference.
Alistair Shaw of Stanhope said: “If you think you can stay in London in your ivory towers, the private sector better wake up. It’s not enough to send some consultants down you’ve got to be there yourself talking to the community,” he said.
Edward Cooke, Executive Director of BCSC, agreed: “What is absolutely clear is that developers and local authorities need to be prepared to listen, to each other, to communities. But equally we need strong leadership that is prepared to sell a vision to residents who can often be sceptical about change.”