The second in our series of infographics covers the subject of what to do with older shopping centres that have not kept pace with an evolving retail sector and may no longer be fit for purpose. It provides a summary of some of the key planning issues affecting the repurposing of older shopping centres. Different centres give rise to different issues.

In the twentieth century, older shopping centres often formed the main retail destination for the local catchment of the associated town. In more recent years, they have had to contend with increasingly sophisticated out of town retail facilities alongside the exponential growth of online shopping and the flight of retailers to higher order centres which provide experiential, destination shopping facilities. This has left an opportunity for the transformation of older shopping centres into Community Shopping Centres which serve a local, day to day retail and service need.

1. Volatility – A shopping centre built for the retail customer of the twentieth century and which has not evolved to respond to a rapidly changing retail market is likely to suffer from significant vacancies and depressed footfall.

2. Uncertainty – These shopping centres tend to contain a high proportion of retail uses in poorly configured shop units with a limited focus on providing a wider service and leisure offer. What would make people visit? Essential services and amenities? A better hospitality offering? How does the investor find evidence to support the case for regeneration and repurposing?

3. Complexity – Many factors can influence the costs associated with the repurposing of shopping centres – no two projects are the same. For example, policy requirements (such as the need to provide cycle and car parking, reduce carbon emissions, introduce grey-water recycling, highway works, heating and power networks etc.), CIL & S106 costs, business rates, leases, existing planning permissions, competing out of centre schemes and neighbouring uses all combine to affect the potential to deliver reconfigured and fit for purpose space.

4. Ambiguity – There is a need to achieve a return on investment which is difficult to accomplish if the shopping centre is no longer attractive to the community it serves i.e. it does not provide the range of goods and services, or experience that customers wish to access on a day to day basis. What are the range of services and goods that are attractive to the local demographic? Does the current policy framework allow these types of goods and services to be provided?

 

1. Vision – A key part of creating a resilient Community Shopping Centre is to have a clear understanding of its role within the retail hierarchy and to provide a differentiated offer to higher order centres which are visited on a less frequent basis. The process to achieving a successful facility is underpinned by a well thought out planning strategy which promotes and protects an asset and in turn the vitality and viability of the town centre as a whole.

2. Understanding – An in depth understanding of the baseline planning position that underpins an asset is essential to define an overarching commercial strategy for repurposing it as a Community Shopping Centre. Investors need to understand whether the key asset management and development projects for the scheme are likely to achieve planning permission / political support.

3. Clarity – We will ensure that investors are advised fully of the true costs associated with planning for the repurposing of a centre before embarking on such a project. These costs can include CIL and S106, onerous policy requirements, technical reports / specialist advice, application fees, promoting an asset / project through the local plan (including attendance at examination) and preparing and deploying a defensive strategy in relation to speculative / harmful development that is not consistent with policy and has the potential to undermine planned investment. The client can then make an informed judgement as to whether a project or strategy is worth pursuing (having regard to other costs outside of the planning process).

4. Agility – Repurposing older shopping centres can have a truly positive effect on a local community and the value of an asset. Community Shopping Centres appeal to a wide demographic who are looking for a day to day convenience offer alongside leisure and service options. We will effectively communicate the positive benefits of repurposing these centres (which may take many years) and to work with local authorities to bring forward a flexible policy framework which allows for this repurposing to take place.