Joint report by CBI and EC Harris makes number of recommendations to regenerate the UK’s regional cities

High Street

The CBI and EC Harris have launched a raft of policy recommendations to regenerate the UK’s regions and bring an end to an emerging “two speed economy” between the South-east and the rest of the country.

The recommendations – which include an overhaul of business rates – are designed to encourage the public and private sectors to work closer together rejuvenate regional UK towns and cities.

Among the measures it calls for are:

  • a one-year business rates holiday for firms moving into empty property
  • planning changes to make it easier to convert empty shops into homes and for cafés and restaurants to introduce temporary outside seating
  • and using the public sector balance sheet to kick-start investment in building projects.

The report also highlights the need for joined-up strategic local leadership, more proactive planning together and earlier private sector engagement.

Full recommendations

United and strategic local leadership

- Empowered local Leaders must work strategically, looking at the whole of the local economy, beyond short term and parochial interests
- Flexible and joined-up funding to local areas, such as through the Local Growth Fund must be backed over the long-term by political parties
- Local growth initiatives must be co-ordinated, aligned and targeted across the same geographical area

Proactive planning allied with early private sector engagement

- Local authorities should be looking to innovate through merging resources and embedding more commercial strategy in regeneration plans,
- They must follow leading local councils who have already had success with private sector engagement and arm’s-length delivery bodies, like the Olympic Delivery Authority
- LEPs must also play a stronger role in ensuring sufficient new homes are built to meet local needs

Reformed business rates and business leadership to support high street rejuvenation

- With 1 in 7 shops in the UK high street lying empty it is important to recognise that shops will play a smaller role in the developing space of town centres
- Planning changes to make it easier to convert shops into homes should be implemented without further delay as well as removing the need for planning consent for temporary seating on high streets
- Business Improvement Districts bringing together local businesses need to be strengthened, evolving into investment bodies that can act as a single strategic organisation to design and implement an area improvement plan
- A cap on rates increases and a year-long rates holiday on long-term empty properties can encourage growth and investment.

Alignment of national and local infrastructure plans

- Local and national schemes must be integrated to ensure maximum impact, local support and the completion of plans
- Local Transport Bodies must back schemes in alignment with the wider growth priorities set out by LEPs

Financing regeneration requires creative new approaches

- Public money must be joined up with private sector investment to back schemes that will generate long term returns as through Urban Development Funds
- Public bodies must free up surplus assets - properties or land - to be used for regeneration
- Strong public sector balance sheets used to underwrite investment from the private sector in key regeneration schemes through innovative tax schemes, such as Tax Increment Financing, TIF, or guaranteeing private investment.