Welcome to Part 1 of our series of infographics. This first infographic looks at some of the challenges and opportunities associated with repurposing town centres where retail has traditionally been the main focus. Different town centres give rise to different issues.

1. Volatility – How consumers choose to access goods and services has changed. Retailers in particular have had to, and continue to, reconsider space requirements which has impacted on the form and range of goods sold in town centre locations. If the town centre does not provide what customers want, they will choose to shop and spend their leisure time elsewhere. This can lead to high levels of vacancy in once thriving town centres. From an investor’s perspective, the immediate solution might be to reduce rents or to let units to less desirable retailers to mitigate business rates.

2. Uncertainty – Developers and investors will have plans for regenerating their assets. However, in many cases town centre planning policies have not kept pace with the changing retail landscape. This can lead to a high level of uncertainty as to whether or not redeveloping or repurposing of town centres for a wider range of uses (outside of retail) can be achieved.

3. Complexity – Distressed assets in town centres are usually failing due to several factors. This can include occupier uncertainty surrounding out of centre development and a shift in focus towards higher order centres, unsustainable business rates, expensive parking, poor urban realm, a lack of identity and multiple ownerships. Addressing these issues can be complex.

4. Ambiguity – The traditional focus on retail uses within town centres (i.e. individual units being within A1 Use Class) has made it difficult for landlords and investors to respond quickly to demand from alternative end users such as café and leisure uses. There remains considerable ambiguity as to whether local authorities will approve changes of use away from retail and within a timeframe that meets occupier demand.

1. Vision – We work with landlords, investors and local authorities to help identify opportunities for the redevelopment and repurposing of assets. This is informed by analysis of how town centres function, what uses are lacking (informed by gap analysis), whether there are opportunities for placemaking and what the options are for securing improvements through the planning system (acknowledging the wider commercial factors that also influence town centre opportunities).

2. Understanding – Once a vision is defined, it is important to understand the baseline position from which a strategy will evolve. Our work includes pre-purchase due diligence reviews (for example assessment of existing and committed competing schemes), feasibility studies focusing on opportunities for redevelopment / repurposing and wider placemaking, planning policy framework review to assess flexibility and analysis of the political backdrop to decision making.

3. Clarity – Our role is to provide researched evidence and intelligence, and a robust understanding of the issues affecting an asset and the town centre within which it is situated. This provides clarity as to what can be achieved.

4. Agility – Vital and viable town centres require a flexible framework within which stakeholders have confidence to invest in the town centre and respond quickly to shifts in consumer and occupier demand. In an era of disruptive technology, it is vital that town centres remain relevant. To achieve this, they need to be agile – this can be accomplished through working with local authorities to shape development plans and influence town centre masterplans, strategies and frameworks.